GARDEN GROVE, Calif. >> Former NFL quarterback Todd Marinovich is making another start — in life. This time as a muralist.
The city of Garden Grove has hired the former University of Southern California and Los Angeles Raiders quarterback to paint a 25-by-30 foot mural on the side of a downtown theater.
Marinovich, 45, was a 1991 first-round draft pick by the Raiders who became one of football’s biggest busts, first struggling with his game, then with drug addiction.
More than 20 years after he played for the Raiders and more than a dozen years after he last played pro football of any kind, Marinovich was recommended for the $20,000 commission by a councilman in Garden Grove, a city of 175,000 that itself is trying to make a cultural comeback.
“Can you think of anyone more symbolic of comebacks?” said Councilman Steve Jones, a USC graduate.
Marinovich has been working on the mural for three weeks and it will be unveiled Oct. 12, the Orange County Register reported Tuesday.
“I got chills when they asked me to do this project,” said Marinovich. “I have some ideas about where I want this mural to go, but I’m mostly letting the art flow.”
The mural is mostly shielded by tarps, but the parts he is working on show the deep roots of a tree with sprawling farmland in the background. He has invited elementary school kids to add doodles, handprints and scribbles.
With his black board shorts, baseball cap and bare feet, Marinovich doesn’t look much different than a typical artist working on such a project. But many fans have recognized him and stopped to chat, get autographs and take pictures.
He has no direct ties to Garden Grove. He was a high school superstar in another Orange County city, Mission Viejo, famously bred from birth to be a quarterback and dubbed “Robo QB.” Then came short stints with the Trojans and Raiders before he faded into drug problems. He made comebacks to play in Canada and the Arena Football League before leaving the game altogether.
Now he says he doesn’t so much as watch football, unless he’s throwing one around with his two kids at their home in Oceanside.
“I’m into this,” he said, looking at the mural that is the biggest project he’s ever done.
“That’s the beauty of art,” he said. “You can control it.”