Fame was fleeting, but Marlow was one of the best

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Sports Editor

I know this much:

The boy could run.

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While plundering through a desk here I came across an old manila folder with a red name on it.

Bobby Marlow.

Inside were newspaper clippings and photocopied remnants of Marlow’s accomplishments while at Troy High School in the late 40s. I opened one to find a dusty picture of Marlow, football tucked tight against his chest, and a short biography. It was the Troy High News and the dateline was Oct. 18, 1948 and there was Troy’s most famous orphan, smiling, with one of those leather football helmets on his head and no face mask.

Bobby Marlow played in an era of super heroes. A face mask would have spoiled his good looks.

In the short article Marlow described his favorite pastime as "loafing."

Maybe around Troy, but not on the football field.

He was 6-foot tall and weighed about 190 pounds and had the unique combination of a fullback’s power with a tailback’s speed.

He had a running style that people equalled to a horse’s gallop and could step through a line quicker then the flick of a light switch. Marlow moved on to Alabama, where he became known as "Robert of Troy" by Gay Talese, then- sports editor of the Crimson and White.

At a time when many coaches were attempting to get away from two-platoon football, Marlow played both sides with relish. In 1950, as a sophomore, he scored first against Tennessee and could have won the game late with another touchdown, but fumbled the ball as he lunged toward the endzone.

The Vols’ won 14-9 and the ‘Bama coaching staff punished Marlow by playing him at linebacker the following week against Mississippi State. He led the team in tackles and Alabama won 14-7.

As a senior, Marlow rallied the Crimson Tide to a 10-2 record in 1952. This was before the "Bear", who would arrive in 1958, and Alabama would suffer through four straight losing seasons after ’53.

Marlow jumped to the Canadian Football League, an odd decision, considering he was a certain first round pick by the NFL. Maybe it was the appeal of quick money, but in another newspaper clipping I found, this one written by Dan Smith for the Messenger, Marlow stated that he would have "gone to Canada and played for free." He simply enjoyed the game.

After the move north, though, Bobby Marlow disappeared.

As Al Van Hoose wrote following Marlow’s death, the boy that had been a terror to Georgia Tech, "became an Alabama trivia question." What had happened to him?

Marlow’s life ended in 1985. He as 55 years old and he was buried in Jasper.

Some would say he never fully realized his potential as a football player and that his lifestyle had finally caught up with him. By most accounts, Marlow was fond of the bottle.

But like I said, although I never saw him play, I know this much:

The boy could run.