It is apparently Gino Torretta's role in life to wrinkle everything he wears, including the mantle of Heisman Trophy winner. Sloppy has always been Torretta's style. It was part of his charm during his two seasons as Miami's quarterback. He didn't shave regularly, dress well or stand up straight. Blackie Sherrod of the Dallas Morning News suggested that Torretta resembled "a young Spiro Agnew."
But until the Sugar Bowl no one could deny that Torretta was a winner. He was on the verge of leading Miami to a second straight national title, and that was expected to quiet skeptics about his abilities and to justify the Heisman. Instead, Torretta threw three interceptions and confirmed nearly every one of those skeptics' doubts. "I don't remember much," Torretta said afterward. "It was a blur."
Worst of all, Torretta lost his composure, and by half-time he seemed intimidated. "In the second quarter he looked over center at me and froze for a second," said Tide defensive end John Copeland. "I saw fear. He wasn't all there."
Torretta never received the respect normally accorded a Heisman candidate though he had amassed a 26-1 record as a starter. A large body of players, fans and observers think that Torretta was not even the best player on his own team. Some believe he is not even the best in his family.
Torretta is the youngest of four athletic brothers. Gary is 31, and twins Geoff and Greg are 28. Geoff was a backup at Miami to 1986 Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde, and Gary, who played at St. Mary's of California, had a brief tryout at quarterback with the Los Angeles Rams. Joking, their mother, Connie, said last week, "I always thought Gary had the most talent."
In fact, Alabama made Torretta look far worse than he is. His arm strength is reliable if unexceptional, and if he doesn't do some things right, he doesn't often do things wrong. If Torretta does possess one quality, it is durability. As a teenager in Pinole, Calif., he ran with a skateboarding crowd called the Thrasher Dudes, performing flips off ramps and in empty swimming pools. Torretta broke both his arms skateboarding—the right one when he was 14 and fell oil' a ramp, the left one the next year when he crashed into some rocks—but neither injury slowed him down. He surfed in a cast throughout one summer. The next summer, while still recovering from the other broken arm, he hit a bases-clearing double in an all-star game.
How the NFL regards him remains to be seen. At 6'3", 205 pounds, Torretta has the requisite size, and he can find some comfort in the fact that most recent Heisman winners have performed poorly in bowl games. "If I'm a fourth-round quarterback, then I'll be the best fourth-rounder ever," said Torretta.
A prophetic moment for Torretta came a month ago at the Johnny Unitas Award banquet in Louisville. He accepted the plaque as the best quarterback in the nation, though his name had been inscribed GORRETTA. "That's about par for the course this year," he said.