Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio will run a football-themed campaign ad Saturday during first-round NFL playoff games. Rubio played one year for tiny Tarkio College before transferring back to Florida.
Rubio, described in Manuel Roig-Franzia’s biography as an undersized but smart and hardworking defensive back, received a football scholarship from the Tarkio Owls, a competitor in the NAIA’s Heart of America Conference based in Tarkio, Missouri, and played one season, from 1989 to 1990. Roig-Franzia describes the experience, as a culture shock: the Miami native moved to a tiny town in the frigid north of Missouri. While the shock was the primary reason he decided to move back, Tarkio was plagued by the nation’s highest student loan default rate. Rubio left the school just before it filed for bankruptcy and transferred to Santa Fe College, a community college in Gainesville, Florida before earning a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida and a law degree at the University of Miami.
There’s not a ton of info out there about Tarkio football, though we do know the team went 4-5-1 in Rubio’s only season. Rubio did show off his football chops as Florida House Speaker in 2006, catching passes from Dan Marino and Tim Tebow:
Tampa Bay Times reporter Alex Leary later revealed the stats: 3 receptions on 4 targets.
While Rubio left his playing days at Tarkio, the game has remained an important influence on him. His wife Jeannette Dousdebes Rubio appeared in the first Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders swimsuit calendar before leaving the team in 2006. He also coaches his sons Dominick and Anthony on the weekends and delivered cutting remarks about his alma mater’s rival Florida State while campaigning in Iowa before the heated Iowa-Iowa State game:
‘Look, I don’t have anything against Florida State,’ Rubio told Iowa radio station KXNO (AM) 1460. ‘I think there has to be a school where people who can’t get into Florida can go to college.’