After becoming the first rookie since the American football merger in 1970 to lead a conference in passing, the milestones fell as he strutted his stuff with the Miami Dolphins between 1983 and 1999. He was the all-time leader in touchdown passes (420), yardage (61,367), completions (4,967) and attempts (8,358).
Among his other benchmark achievements in the sport were: leading the league in completions six times; throwing for at least 20 touchdown passes on 13 occasions; throwing at least four touchdown passes in a game 21 times; having 13 400-yard passing games (and peaking at 521); and having 13 3,000-yard passing seasons.
The 6ft 4ins (1.93 metres) quarterback was a late pick by the Dolphins in the 1983 draft, but he set the pulses racing in only his second season in the league. In his magical year of 1984, he became the only quarterback to throw for more than 5,000 yards. He opened the season with five touchdown passes and ended it by tossing four in each of the final four games.
"What he accomplished was to have a better season than anyone who has ever played this game," Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach said of Marino. "I'm talking about quarterbacks, wide receivers or anyone else. He was unbelievable."
Quite apart from his brilliant play on the field, he was also noted for his durability in the NFL. He began 145 consecutive non-strike games before a torn Achilles' tendon in his right leg during 1993 ended the longest run by a quarterback since the 1970 merger. In his last few seasons for the Dolphins, he had to battle against knee problems, a bad ankle and nerve root irritation in his neck, which weakened both his arms and legs.