September 21, 2010

Two years ago, Robert Marve realized he needed a change.

A tumultuous freshman season at Miami left the quarterback with no choice but to get out. Out of town. Out of coach Randy Shannon's doghouse. And, most importantly, out of the situation in which he was miserably marred.

To say the cities of Miami and West Lafayette, Ind., are different places would be like saying Barack Obama and Glenn Beck have different points of view. But when the Hurricanes handcuffed his transfer options, essentially forcing him to leave the south, Marve elected to continue his college career at Purdue. Before taking your talents to South Beach became the cool thing to do, Marve pulled an anti-LeBron, leaving the city with the hot weather and hotter night life for a place where he could block out distractions and thrive in a football-first atmosphere.

While Marve played well enough at Miami, his off-field activity generated most of the headlines. Along with the emergence of fellow quarterback Jacory Harris, a lengthy rap sheet led to Marve's falling out with the 'Canes. Among the bullet points: A car accident in which he was a passenger that forced him to redshirt the 2007 season; two misdemeanor charges for criminal mischief and resisting arrest that kept him out of the 2008 season-opener; and academic issues that cost him the chance to play in the Emerald Bowl that same year.

Purdue coach Danny Hope deemed those mistakes youthful transgressions, and offered the quarterback a scholarship. He's yet to regret the decision. Marve is thriving on the team that's given him a fresh start, in the town where he can again be known as just a football player.

But the sophomore is still transitioning to life in West Lafayette.

"It was a huge culture shock when I got here," said Marve. "Growing up, I always thought I lived in the city when I lived in Tampa Bay, but then I got to Miami and it was huge. But I'm starting to get used to West Lafayette. I've gotten used to the distance and being away from the city where there aren't so many things to do."

There's no subtext to that message -- Marve is genuinely thrilled to be a Boilermaker. He just never envisioned himself living in northern Indiana. "The winter is a brutal time of the year here," Marve explained. And when it comes to Saturday nights, the social scene isn't exactly on par with what you'll see on Jersey Shore. "Back home, you couldn't even get in some places unless you were wearing a button-down," Marve said. "Here, everyone goes out in khaki shorts."

But the slinger from the south is embracing the change, working to make fans forget his past and focusing on his maturation into a better teammate, student and quarterback.

"I think everyone grows up from when they were a freshman in college," Marve said. "Those couple of years makes a big difference in how you look at life and deal with it. I don't think I made too may mistakes in the past, but I've learned a lot from the ones I did make and I've grown up like anyone else."

While sitting out last season due to the NCAA's transfer rule -- and the best-timed ACL tear in recent memory -- Marve made strides in the classroom, earning a 3.0 GPA in his first semester at Purdue. "Academic prowess has not always been his forte," Hope said earlier this summer, "but he's really stepped it up."

After suffering the ACL tear shortly after his arrival, Marve made a point of trying to better himself as a quarterback everyday. Whether by studying then-QB Joey Elliott or taking 18 credits one semester to soften his course load during the season, he was determined to find a way. But his most common refuge ended up being the gym.

"He lifts incredibly hard and really tries to better himself in the weight room," said Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue's stud defensive end. "He's a guy who's not afraid to step up and talk even though he hasn't been here long and that's a good thing. That's what you want in your quarterback, a leader and someone who is willing to take charge of the team."

When speaking about his quarterback, Hope talks about the sophomore like a prized possession, pronouncing his full name on almost every reference. "Robert Marve is an unbelievable talent," Hope said. "He's as talented of a quarterback as I've ever been around, and I've been around some pretty good quarterbacks." Hope said the signal-caller needs to improve his decision-making on the field, but also knows Marve could potentially be the lynchpin to Purdue's rebuilding project -- and the latest addition to the school's famed "Cradle of Quarterbacks."

Marve's talent has never been a question. He was Florida's Mr. Football in 2006, famously breaking all of Tim Tebow's state records. But as a redshirt freshman at Miami, he went 6-5 while completing 54.4 percent of his passes for 1,293 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 picks.

At Purdue, he's beginning to regain his high school form. In the Boilermakers' first game of the season, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound quarterback completed 31-of-42 passes for 220 yards and rushed for a 23-yard touchdown against Notre Dame. In his next game, a home win versus Western Illinois, Marve threw his first touchdown pass in black and gold. And against Ball State last week, Marve completed 12-of-20 passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns before sitting out most of the second half with a leg injury.

But the hiccups have been there, too. He's thrown four picks over his first three games and overshadowed a brilliant Week 1 touchdown by showboating over the goal line, leading to a flag for an excessive celebration.

"Coach just said 'don't do it again,'" Marve said bluntly.

His relationship with Hope and offensive coordinator Gary Nord has led to new levels of comfort and trust. After not seeing eye-to-eye with Shannon (to put it lightly), Marve said the Purdue staff levels with him on everything. "They are straight shooters," he said. "If they don't think you're doing something right, they tell you to your face. They're not going to be somebody to hide stuff."

Marve critiqued his own play on the season, saying he needs to slow down and not rush his decisions. He said he wasn't nervous in his first game in nearly two years, but could feel his blood flowing unlike at any other moment since he'd been a 'Cane.

The brash-turned-humble kid has been seeing things differently since meeting a few members of the aforementioned "Cradle of Quarterbacks," including Drew Brees, Bob Griese and Kyle Orton.

"I got to meet all of them," Marve said. "Drew came up to me without even saying anything and it was amazing how humble he was, talking about the Super Bowl and other stuff. It was weird talking to someone who had actually played in it and he talked about it like it wasn't a big deal. He talked to me about how to come back from an injury and gave me some great advice."

If Marve really has matured, he'll likely follow every word of the Super Bowl MVP's advice. Things are certainly different at Purdue than they were at Miami, but that might be just what Marve needed.

"I don't think I'm a whole different person than I used to be, I just had to go through some situations," Marve said. "And like any other job, you learn from them and you move on.

"And that's what I'm doing."

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