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Quarterbacks come in a all shapes and sizes these days, and with all sorts of labels. Marc Bulger of the St. Louis Rams doesn't yet have a catchy nickname or identifiable style, but one day soon he may be known as “The Assassin.” He is the football equivalent of a professional hit man—lightning-fast, deadly accurate, cool under pressure, and largely unnoticed. Marc plays, he wins, then no one remembers anything about him until the following Sunday. Come to think of it, he could also be called "The Invisible Man." This is his story...
Marc Robert Bulger was born on April 5th, 1977 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Patricia and Jim Bulger. Jim was a great high school quarterback who was recruited to Notre Dame, where he served as Joe Thiesmann’s backup on the Fighting Irish team that went to 1971 Cotton Bowl. Patty’s cousin is Bill Fralic, the Pitt All-American and Atlanta Falcon All-Pro guard.
Sports ran deep in the next Bulger generation. Marc was the second of five kids. His older brother, Jimmy, earned a golf scholarship to Notre Dame. The middle child, Patrick, was the star in the family, but he burned out on sports after high school. Next in line were Katie and Meg, who became Division I basketball stars.
Hoops was actually the family sport. All five kids excelled on the hardwood. Not surprisingly, there were some outrageous games in the Bulger driveway, and some flagrant fouls that are still discussed at family gatherings.
Marc’s father did not push his kids into football, but the boys all played. Like every kid who picked up the pigskin in Pittsburgh, Marc’s sports hero was Dan Marino. One of his best friends actually lived across the street from the Marinos, so he had ample opportunity to worship at the shrine. Once, he met the All-Pro quarterback, who gave him a pair of wristbands.
There was just one problem. Marc didn’t particularly care for football. After playing in some organized leagues as a kid and showing some promise, he dropped the game for seven years to concentrate on basketball and golf. He gave the wristbands away.
In the fall of 1991, Marc enrolled at Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School, Marino’s alma mater. In 1992, his parents badgered him into trying out for the football team, promising if he tried it out for a month and didn’t like it he could quit and they’d never bug him about it again. At the end of that month, Marc was laid up in the hospital with a busted collarbone suffered in his first JV game.
Somewhere between the "I told you so’s" of his sophomore year and the beginning of his junior year, Marc caught the bug and decided to return to the gridiron. This time he made the varsity, but because he lacked experience he spent the year on the bench. When Marc ran the team in practice, however, he showed remarkable poise and precision for a kid who had seen precious little game time.
Marc got his first start as a senior, and surprised even himself when he threw for more than 300 yards. He finished the year with 1,662 passing yards—falling just short of Marino’s school record—and looked as if he’d been taking snaps at quarterback his entire life. An excellent student, he also made the National Honor Society. That was all the recruiters had to see.
Marc stood just over six feet tall, was skinny and not very fast. Normally, this spells death for a Division I prospect, but genetics were on his side. Recruiters took one look at his dad and knew that he still had some growing to do. After his senior season, Marc narrowed his choices down to Maryland, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. For years, he had dreamed of playing for Pitt, but to his dismay, coach Johnny Majors never bothered to recruit him. Majors felt Marc did not have what it took to be a big-time quarterback. Panther fans would soon regret this decision. Marc chose West Virginia, mostly because the Morgantown campus was only 90 minutes away.
As expected, Marc was red-shirted by coach Don Nehlen in 1995, and was a benchwarmer for the Mountaineers in 1996. The team had the nation’s stingiest defense and challenged for Big East dominance until it blew a win against Miami. They ended up going 8-4, good enough for an appearance in Gator Bowl, which they loss to North Carolina. Freshman Amos Zereoue set a school record for first-year players with 1,035 yards, while Marc got into six games and completed 19 of 42 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns.