MIRAMAR, Fla. (AP) — Dan Marino remembers all sorts of details about his first start as an NFL rookie — the opposing quarterback, the disappointing outcome, even the novel pep talk he received from a veteran teammate shortly before kickoff.
"After the national anthem," Marino recalled, "Lyle Blackwood comes over to me and he says, 'You know, Dan, it's your first start. I don't want you to feel any pressure at all. But if you play bad, we're going to lose.'"
Marino laughed as he related the anecdote Tuesday for the Miami Dolphins Touchdown Club. The Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback was an appropriate choice as guest speaker, because the Dolphins are turning to a rookie passer again this season.
In April, Ryan Tannehill became the first quarterback drafted in the first round by the Dolphins since Don Shula took Marino in 1983. On Sunday at Houston, Tannehill will become the first Miami QB to start a season opener as a rookie.
Marino didn't become the starter until the sixth game of his rookie season. He joined a team that had reached the Super Bowl the year before and had David Woodley returning at quarterback.
"Coach Shula told me right from the beginning, 'I want you to come in here and work as if you're going to be the starting quarterback,'" Marino recalled. "He said, 'Now, that could be Week 1. It could be Week 10. It could be maybe next year.' So my expectations were to come in and start right away. I didn't, but I wanted to be the starter."
Marino twice came off the bench and played well, and by early October the job was his. He made his first start against the Buffalo Bills and had his first pass intercepted, but bounced back to throw for 322 yards and three touchdowns.
The Dolphins lost 38-35 in overtime because Joe Ferguson threw five touchdown passes for Buffalo. But afterward Shula couldn't suppress a smile: The Dolphins had found their quarterback for the next 16 years.
That sort of stability is now a fading memory. Marino retired after the 1999 season, and Tannehill will be the Dolphins' 17th starting quarterback since, the most of any NFL team during that span.