Where are they now? Marlin McKeever

Without a doubt, two of the greatest players to ever don the Trojan uniform were the McKeever Twins, Marlin and Mike. From 1958-60, Marlin played right end and fullback while Mike played left guard. Both went on to All-American honors, Marlin was a two-time All-American. He led the team in receptions in 1959 and 1960, was voted USC Lineman of the Year in 1960, and was the Player of the Game vs. UCLA in 1960. He was also the AP Player of the Week once in 1959 and once in 1960, Sports Illustrated Player of the Week once in 1959 and once in 1960, and was the L.A Rams Most Valuable Player in 1971. Mike was team co-captain in 1960 and was voted Most Inspirational Player in 1960. Both were All-Conference first teamers as well as Academic All-American first teamers.  While Marlin went on to a stellar career in the NFL, Mike's career ended prematurely in his senior year due to a head injury. Tragedy struck in 1967 when Mike passed away while in a coma, the result of a car accident.  Along with John Ferraro, they were the first three linemen into the USC Hall of Fame. Many older Trojans have fond memories of the McKeevers.

Tell us about your childhood.
My brother Mike and I were born  Jan. 1, 1940 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We came to California in November 1940 due to the dust bowl, poor economy, etc. When we came to California, some of my relatives turned right at Needles and fortunately, my father turned left. We ended up on the west side of Los Angeles on Sawtelle, near the edge of Santa Monica. My dad was a heavy equipment mechanic and my mom, because she wanted us to go to Catholic school, ended up cooking for the nuns of St. Paul the Apostle in Westwood. Instead of paying her, they allowed my brothers and I to attend the grammar school. I have an older brother Bill, who is 22 months older.

Tell us about Mike.
Well, to talk about myself is to talk about Mike because until he passed away, we did everything the same. We both kept very good academic records and I'm proud of that.
Our athletic careers in high school and college were pretty good. We were very fortunate to be successful at the University after we graduated from Mt. Carmel High School in South Central Los Angeles (71st & Hoover).

Did you have an idol?
Yes. We had relatives in Tulare and that's where Bob Mathias  (two-time Olympic decathlete and Stanford football player) was from. He actually lived around the corner from my relatives. I never met him until later when I was playing pro ball (with the Redskins) and he was a congressman(R-Cal.1967-74).  Mike and I had a great deal of respect for Jon Arnett, who was four years ahead of us. He graduated just before we got in. But I got the opportunity to play pro ball with him (with the Rams). Jon was, and still is, a good friend of mine.  

The bond between identical twins must be very strong. One example of this bond are the Craven twins (Derrick and Errick).  Did the thought of  Mike and you playing for different schools ever cross your minds?
That never entered our minds.We thrived on the fact that we had competition amongst ourselves, academically and athletically. We had the opportunity to go to different schools on track scholarships on a count that Mike was the national high school record holder in the 16 lb. shot put. We got to SC and competed  for a couple of years, then Dallas Long came along. He was a freshman and couldn't compete yet. When I was a sophomore, I ended up winning the Pacific Coast in the shot put.

Tell us about your decision to go to USC.
Well, it came down to UCLA, Notre Dame, or SC. Finally, we realized that we both had planned on playing pro ball but the main thing was to get an education. To have a degree from SC here in Los Angeles, it was the only school to go to once you start analyzing the whole thing. Our mom wanted us to go to Notre Dame. They hadn't had any football players from Southern California for a long time so they heavily recruited us.    

What was your most memorable game or games?
The first game in the Coliseum against Oregon State (a 21-0 victory). The prior year, SC only won one game. There were a lot of graduations, guys moving up. We won the first game but the year didn't turn out the way we had expected. To get started like that felt pretty good. Our junior year was a really good year. We started off 8-0 then unfortunately lost to UCLA and then went back to play Notre Dame where, quite frankly, we didn't play very well. We ended up 8-2 that year and actually won the Coast, but we couldn't go to the Rose Bowl because we were ineligible. So Washington went, even though we beat them in Seattle. We didn't get the opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl, which probably is one of the biggest disappointments in the three years we were there (freshmen could not play varsity). Mike and I always wanted to go because it was our birthday. I had some really good games over the years but the game I remember more vividly than most was against UCLA when I was a senior. It was a big game, John McKay didn't have the quite the season that was expected. I had a really, really good game defensively and offensively. I caught a pass for a touchdown. We kept them hopping all day. After that, John got his extension because he beat UCLA. Thank God, Topping gave him the extension, the rest is Trojan history. 

You mentioned you were also on the Track and Field team.
As a freshman and sophomore, I threw the discus and the shot put.  I won the Pacific Coast Championship in the shot put my sophomore year. I didn't participate in my junior and senior years.

After SC, you went on to the NFL. Tell us about that.
I was the picked third overall in the first round by the Rams. Back then, it wasn't a big media event like it is now. There were about 14 teams in the league. I felt it was a pretty big accomplishment to be a first round draft choice. Unfortunately, because Mike had sustained a head injury in one of the earlier games, he had a couple of blood clots removed from his brain. He was also going to be a first round draft choice but he didn't get the medical clearance. He moved the down the list and  was drafted (in the 13th round by the Rams). But there was no possibility he would ever play again. That was a big disappointment because we wanted to play pro football together, hopefully on the same team. But both being first round choices, that may have been a problem.   

You played for George Allen, Bud Grant, and of course, Vince Lombardi. Can you tell us a little about them?
Allen was a good coach, a player's coach. He and I didn't always see eye to eye. I played in the '67 Pro Bowl (as a tight end) and about two weeks later I was traded to Minnesota. I didn't like being traded away. For whatever reason, he and I just didn't get along that well. So I went to Minnesota and had the opportunity to play for Bud Grant, which was his first year. I really enjoyed it, I was still playing tight end at the time. Joe Kapp was the quarterback.While I was there, Mike died. I liked the people in Minnesota but I just didn't feel like staying there. So I went to Washington. Otto Graham was the coach. Although he was a great Hall of Fame player, he wasn't the best coach.  He lacked certain coaching skills. Then Lombardi came in. Just fantastic. Great disciplinarian, organizer, and motivator. Considered to be the greatest coach ever and I certainly have to agree with that. I was traded back to the Rams (in 1971) and played for Tommy Prothro (former Bruin coach). I loved him, he was a wonderful guy. He w

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