Marve matures in time away from spotlight

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Danny Hope has a philosophy on football players who transfer.

"A transfer is a lot like a divorcee," the Purdue head coach said. "It's not a defect of character. It just didn't work out, and it may not always be all their fault."

Quarterback Robert Marve's divorce from Miami was a messy one, particularly at the end.

The former Florida Mr. Football winner twice was suspended from the team, endured academic struggles and was arrested for breaking a car mirror and then trying to elude police, though charges were later dropped. He sat out the 2007 season because of left hand injuries sustained in a car accident the summer before. Marve started 11 games for Miami in 2008, but he was suspended for the Emerald Bowl for missing a class. (Marve said he showed up late because he was talking with another professor.)

As tension mounted between Marve, his family and Hurricanes head coach Randy Shannon, Marve announced in late December 2008 that he was leaving the team, saying, "I can't play for Coach Shannon." Shannon granted Marve's release but put heavy restrictions on where the quarterback could go. Marve considered walking on at Tennessee before settling on Purdue in late May.

"We did our homework," Hope said. "We don't just invite anybody to come into our family, regardless of the talent level. We knew all about his past and have known him for years. We recruited him a long time ago. Things didn't work out for Robert at Miami. Some of it was Robert, and some of it wasn't. It doesn't matter.

"There were no skeletons in the closet that were of any magnitude to make me think he wouldn't be a great teammate. He had to grow up some. And he has."

Marve has been a model citizen both on and off the field at Purdue, his new coaches and teammates say.

The quarterback "didn't have a great academic history in college," Hope said, but carries a B average at Purdue. Marve, who tore the ACL in his left knee last summer, spent last season learning Purdue's offense and his new teammates.

Fully recovered from the knee injury, Marve will compete for the starting job when Purdue opens spring practice March 24.

"What happened to him was the best thing in the world for him," said Boilers offensive coordinator Gary Nord, who began recruiting Marve immediately after things went south at Miami. "He got kicked real hard in the rear, and sometimes your toughest lessons are your best lessons learned. He got his priorities in life straight.

"He's done excellent academically, he's been great with his rehab and he's studying it as well as anybody I've ever coached."

Purdue isn't making Marve available to reporters until after spring ball starts, but his teammates have had plenty of access to him the last 10 months. Starting running back Ralph Bolden was surprised and impressed with how quickly Marve absorbed the offense and a leadership role.

"A lot of us knew what went on [at Miami]," Boilers wide receiver Keith Smith said, "but it's a fresh start, completely different style of program, everything's completely different. We didn't want to judge anything by prior actions because everybody has mistakes and you've got to move on.

"He matured a lot, and that's one of the key things of being a good quarterback and a good leader of a program."

Marve will have to earn the starting job, and Nord expects Caleb TerBush to provide strong competition. Last year's starter, Joey Elliott, was known for his high character and commanded respect in the locker room. After working behind Elliott, the Boilermakers will be able to spot a phony.

And while no one has ever doubted Marve's talent, his coaches and teammates see a lot more there.

"He has outstanding leadership ability," Hope said. "He's a tremendous worker, he's as committed as any football player that I've been around. He's a pied piper of men in some ways. They follow him, and he's fit in very well.

"The players have accepted him, based on his actions."