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Marino Prepares for Hall of Fame

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JARED LAZARUS/HERALD STAFF
Former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino sneaks a peek at the work of
Utah sculptor Blair Buswell, who is creating a bust for the Pro
Football Hall of Fame.
Marino's bust readied for the Hall of Fame
By GREG COTE

gcote@herald.com


Dan Marino is posing for immortality.
It is a postcard of a Tuesday morning within the rising gates and hedges of Marino's postcard of a sprawling estate in Weston, and the man of the palace is sitting here, watching a block of maroon clay gradually begin to take on his features.

Calipers are being used by the sculptor for minute metric
measurements of the former quarterback's face, such as the width of the bridge of his nose. Now a tool with a wire loop is being used to hollow out the left nostril of the developing likeness.
Marino's cell phone rings, and he laughs when a visitor suggests he cannot take the call, because he doesn't have ears yet.

It is tricky business, turning football legends into official bronze busts for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. It will take the artist, Blair Buswell of Utah, about 40 hours to get Marino ready for this summer's induction.

It took Marino 17 NFL years.

Buswell has created more than 50 of these busts for the Hall across 23 years. Larry Csonka insisted the sculptor magically straighten his oft-broken nose with clay-stic surgery. Terry Bradshaw requested a little extra hair, if you wouldn't mind.

''Take those bags out,'' Marino said kiddingly Tuesday -- well,
maybe half-kiddingly? -- as Buswell shaved slivers of clay from
around his emerging eye-sockets.

The all-time great Dolphin will bear an affable smile for all-time, it has been decided, but nothing over the top.

''I try to stay away from the big smile,'' explains the sculptor.
``Bronze teeth, to be honest, always look funny.''

These are crazy days for Marino, South Florida's golden child,
forever No. 13 but now 43. He prepares for the ceremony in Canton that will culminate his career. Meantime, life goes on all around him. The real stuff.

Marino and wife Claire recently marked their 20th wedding
anniversary. Two of their six kids, Michael and Alexandra (Ali), had birthdays this month. Their oldest, Daniel (Dan-O, 18), just had his senior prom and will leave for college soon.

A SPECIAL TIME

''This is pretty special stuff,'' Marino says, and he doesn't just mean Canton on his horizon. Maybe he doesn't even mostly mean that.

The night before, Monday, Marino and family were at Broward Center for the Performing Arts watching Dan-O win a countywide award for drama, the local high school equivalent of an Oscar.

Marino's presence at school events is no big deal.

''They've seen me around,'' as he puts it. ``It's just part of life. Other kids see me as a father -- or as the star of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.''

(Dan-O's critique of his father's cameo in that early Jim Carrey
film: ``How can you mess up playing yourself?'')

Life goes on, and life is good. How good? Check Marino's immediate to-do list: Play in Mario Lemieux's charity golf tournament in Pittsburgh. Then Jim Kelly's charity event in Buffalo. Then vacation on private island off South Carolina. Then Canton.

Marino chose Dan-O (over his own father and former coach Don Shula) to make the eight-minute speech introducing him in Canton.

It's tough to say who'll be prouder of whom.

''He could get yanked at any time,'' joked Marino of his son the
presenter. ``No, he'll do fine. Keeping him under control is the
problem!''

Soon after the Hall induction, the Marinos will drive to Winston-
Salem and see Dan-O off to begin college at North Carolina School of the Arts. Because life goes on.

LIVING HIS DREAM

The Marinos might be just another family, in fact, if they didn't happen to be Miami's first family of football, and living this dream.

Will you step inside his world and catch up with the retired but
forever-busy Marino on the cusp of his Hall enshrinement?

Glide past the secured gate into Windmill Ranch Estates; you are
expected.

Meander past the equestrian course, the private acres with home
tennis courts, the red Ferraris in driveways.

Finally, see Marino's place looming across a lake, surrounded on
three sides by water, virtually an island unto itself of cream-
colored Mediterranean-style architecture. A row of skyscraping royal palms stand sentry on the perimeter. Lush purple and red bouganviela and ivy crawl the villa walls.

Marino can hone his excellent golf game by stepping onto own
backyard mini-course, complete with manicured green, full-size sand trap and some 50 yards of chipping area on either side of the water-edged hole.

Every amenity imaginable is here. Marino is posing for his Canton
bust in a guest house appointed with twin large-screen plasma TVs, a pool table, popcorn machine and chess set whose lead pieces are miniature Dolphin players.

''I don't play chess,'' Marino says. He smiles. ``But it looks
good.''

The estate includes more than 13,000 square feet and the asking
price would be more than $6 million. Likely a good bit more.

FOOTBALL FOUNDATION

Football, endorsements, wise investing and his latter-day career as a television guy on CBS and HBO built this place, this life -- football the foundation of it all.

It is why a sculptor is here, pinching and nicking a block of clay into Marino's likeness. It is why Marino will begin crafting his Hall acceptance speech ''soon,'' casting his memory back and
figuring how who he'll have time to thank everybody.

More than 40 close relatives from here and Pittsburgh will descend upon Canton, along with a this-is-your-life parade of figures from his past. A local hotel (call it the Marino Arms) already has been reserved. An anticipated hundreds of Dolfans will join the weekend love-in for the most prolific QB in the sport's history.

ENJOY THE MOMENT

''It's something you only do once, so I want to enjoy the moment and have fun with it,'' Marino says.

Experience on national TV has buffed Marino into a confident public speaker, but he knows there will be a wide gulf of difference between talking casually into a studio camera and surveying an audience of loved ones that day.

''You're talking about other players and other things [on TV],'' he said. ``Now you're talking about your own career, your life. Seeing Claire and mother and dad and your family there . . .''

There is a moment's pause.

''We'll get Dan-O to start crying,'' his father kids. ``He's the
actor.''

The sculptor is almost done for the day.

Impressively, almost eerily, Dan Marino begins to appear in a block of clay....................:) :) :)



CONGRATS DAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



 
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