Former Havre High superstar Marc Mariani is good at a lot of things with football, of course, being one of them. No, check that, Mariani is great at a lot of different things, and he’s a great football player.
One thing Mariani has gotten good at the last two NFL seasons, though, is cheering on his Tennessee Titans from the sidelines — something he’d rather have not had so much practice at. But injuries are part of a way of life in football, and they haven’t changed Mariani one bit. Always the consummate professional, and a team-first guy, Mariani has been there for his Titans every step of the way, through two difficult seasons.
But being on the sidelines, not being suited up is something Mariani is getting tired of being used too. Instead, he’s more than ready to get back to doing what he loves most, and that’s helping his team succeed by making plays, especially with his big-play capability as a returner, something which led him to the 2010 Pro Bowl and a remarkable rookie season.
Everyone in the world saw Mariani’s 2012 season come to an end before it ever really began. The two-time All-American from the University of Montana suffered a horrific leg injury in the Titans’ preseason opener that season, and it caused him to miss the entire year, and much of the following offseason.
But last summer, Mariani returned a healthy and strong player, ready to make an impact in Nashville once again. He was making big plays in the Tennessee training camp, and enjoyed an emotional return to LP Field when the Titans opened preseason play Aug. 8 against the Washington Redskins. That night was a great night for Mariani, seemingly right up until the end. But then it wasn’t.
On a special team’s play late in the contest, Mariani would suffer a fractured glenoid (scapula), and though it was considered a minor injury, it was one which forced him to miss the rest of the preseason, and ultimately led to him being placed on Injured Reserve, missing the entire 2013 campaign.
Another season derailed.
But, Mariani, who was seldom injured during his playing days with the Montana Grizzlies, has made the most out of what he calls a frustrating situation, and though his future is uncertain as it pertains to the Titans, he has once again worked hard to turn a negative into a positive.
“The shoulder injury is one that was pretty minor, especially compared to what I went through the year before,” Mariani said. “I was probably going to be ready to go by the second week of the regular season, but it would have still been pretty fragile, and they (Titans) didn’t want me to play with it. So they had the ability to put me on IR for the season.
“And ultimately, it was in both of our best interests to go that route,” Mariani said. “The Titans have been great, they have really taken care of me through all of this. And though it was frustrating because I felt like I was ready to play, this season has allowed me to really let my leg heal even more, to get in the weight room and get stronger and more fit, and allow me to come back 100 percent healthy next year.”
And next year is where Mariani has sights set, and has since the day he was placed on IR. Every day, he’s been doing what he knows best, and that’s working hard, not just to be healthy again, but to continue to become an even better football player.
Earlier this fall, he had another surgery on his leg, and he says he’s been working hard to rehab that fully, and just to continue to get back to full strength so that he can resume his career in 2014, whether it be with the Titans, or with another team. Mariani will be a free agent for the first time in his career when the regular season comes to a close.
“Being on IR has been frustrating, I’ve been a cheerleader on the sidelines on game days all season, and it’s tough at times because you just want to be out there with your team, doing whatever you can to help them.
“But I’ve been staying busy, working hard,” he continued. “I am in the facility five days a week, doing treatments and rehabbing my leg more. I had a surgery in October to clean up some things. There were complications from the first surgery, and now my leg feels 10 thousand times better than it did before. Other than that, I’ve just been in the weight room working very hard. Again, the Titans have been great, I’m still with the team, still working with the coaches. And long term, having this season off will really be a benefit to me with my leg.”
As for the rest of his time away from football, Mariani has managed to stay busy too. He’s one of the faces of the Tennessee franchise, and says he’s very active with the NFL Play 60 program, while he also enjoys some of the great things Nashville has to offer, like country music concerts and, yes, hockey. Mariani is a rabid Nashville Predators fan, and relishes every opportunity he gets to watch them play live. He was also able to return to Missoula for the Montana/Eastern Washington game in October, and was an honorary Grizzly captain for the game. Mariani will also become a married man this February, so he’s certainly had a lot of great things happen in his life, even with the difficulties of not being able to play football.
Ultimately though, getting back on the football field drives the former Blue Pony great every day. And make no mistake, through his hard work and dedication, something that has always helped him perservere, Mariani will be back on the football field in 2014. He would prefer it to be in Nashville, the only NFL franchise he’s ever known. The Titans also seem to want Mariani back too, as head coach Mike Munchak noted to the Tennessean last month. Tennessee has had wild inconsistency in its return game this season, and the Titans certainly know how valuable having a return specialist is, considering Mariani shattered all of their return records in his rookie season.
“He is definitely a guy we want to be part of this organization,” Munchak said. “When you go through periods like we’re going through, inconsistency at the position, you realize the value — even more — of someone who has been consistent when he’s had the opportunities.”
Marc Mariani measures the progress made on a vertical jump workout at the Tennessee Titans' facility earlier in the fall. Mariani has spent his fall on Injured Reserve continuing to rehab the leg injury he suffered in the 2012 preseason, and preparing to return to the football field in 2014.
Mariani wants to be back out there returning kicks and punts for Tennessee too. He has one career kickoff return for a score, and two punt returns for TD’s in his NFL career. But he also knows the NFL is a business, and at this point, being back in Nashville may, or may not happen.
However, no matter what happens, Mariani will do what he does. He’ll work as hard as he can to be the best player and best teammate he can. He’ll stay positive and he’ll make himself a valuable commodity.
“Tennessee is where I want to be,” Mariani said. “The Titans have been so great to me; they’ve really done a good job taking care of me. And I feel pretty confident they want me there, too. But this is my first time being a free agent, so I’ve never really seen how the process works.
“But right now I feel great,” he continued. “I feel healthy and strong and I’ll be ready to go for next season,” he added. “Hopefully, that will be in Tennessee, but we’ll just have to see how it all goes.”