Nobody would’ve predicted Marc Bulger to become the then-St. Louis Rams’ starting quarterback in 2002.
Injuries to future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner and Jamie Martin that year opened the door for Bulger, a quarterback prospect both the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons released.
Bulger promptly responded with 14-of-21 passing for 186 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in a 28-13 win over the then-Oakland Raiders.
Bulger won the next five games he appeared in before becoming Mike Martz’s starting signal caller in 2003.
Some four years later, Bulger became the Rams’ highest-paid player in franchise history when he signed a historic six-year, $62.5 million deal.
Not bad for a late bloomer from Pittsburgh who committed himself to football in his senior year of high school.
For all its worth, Bulger’s rise from a snubbed quarterback prospect to two-time Pro Bowler and highest-paid player in team history is a feel-good story worth reading over and over again.
Marc Robert Bulger was born to parents Jim and Patty in Pittsburgh, PA on April 5, 1977.
He has an older sister Katie and younger sister Meggie.
Jim Bulger and the great Dan Marino played quarterback for Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic Vikings.
Bulger played for legendary Notre Dame Fighting Irish head football coach Ara Parseghian.
Bulger starred for the Irish in their 24-11 upset victory over the top-ranked Texas Longhorns in the 1971 Cotton Bowl.
50 years ago today. Cotton bowl. My dad. “Bullet” pic.twitter.com/BrIo9GokJP
— Marc Bulger (@MarcBulger10) January 2, 2021
Jim’s son Marc followed suit on the gridiron when he enrolled at Central Catholic High School.
However, Marc Bulger wasn’t interested in football during his formative years – basketball was more his cup of tea.
Apparently, he inherited his love for the hardcourt from his mother Patty, who was a standout hoops player during her high school days.
It wasn’t until Marc’s senior year at Central Catholic that he veered toward the gridiron instead.
“Honest, I never really pushed him (toward football),” Jim Bulger told his Central Catholic classmate and ESPN writer Len Pasquarelli in 2002 when Marc became the starting quarterback of the St. Louis Rams. “But once he started playing, I thought he could be pretty good, because he had such good court vision when he played basketball.”
Marc Bulger excelled at quarterback for the Central Catholic Vikings before committing to Don Nehlen’s West Virginia Mountaineers in the collegiate ranks.
College Days With The West Virginia Mountaineers
Marc Bulger attended West Virginia University from 1996 to 1999. He majored in sports management.
Bulger played behind West Virginia Mountaineers starting quarterback Chad Johnston in his true freshman season in 1996.
The Mountaineers won eight games and received an invitation to the 1997 Gator Bowl.
Unfortunately, 25th-ranked West Virginia lost to the 12th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, 20-13.
After Johnston graduated following the 1996 NCAA season, Bulger took over as the Mountaineers’ starting quarterback for the 1997 campaign.
Marc Bulger seized the opportunity and showed why he was one of the best pure passers in Mountaineers program history in the next two seasons.
Bulger had over 6,000 passing yards and a combined 45 touchdowns in twenty-four games in 1997 and 1998.
The Mountaineers averaged eight wins per season during that time frame.
In a game against the Missouri Tigers in the 1998 NCAA season, Bulger completed 34 of 50 pass attempts for 424 passing yards – all new school records.
That same year, Bulger also set another school record with six touchdown passes against the Pitt Panthers.
To nobody’s surprise, Bulger earned Second-Team All-Big East honors in 1998.
With Marc Bulger under center, West Virginia played in the 1997 Carquest Bowl and 1998 Insight Bowl.
An injury limited Bulger to just eight games in his senior campaign in 1999.
He threw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (11) that year.
It was a trend that resurfaced as his NFL career wound down a decade later.
Nonetheless, Bulger finished his four-year stint at West Virginia as the school’s record holder in 25 various passing and offensive categories, including:
- Career total offense (7,827 yards)
- Completions (630)
- Attempts (1,023)
- Touchdown passes (59)
- Completion percentage (61.6 percent)
- Single-season total offense (3,515 yards)
While Marc Bulger’s pro football career got off to an inauspicious beginning, he went on to write one of the best feel-good stories in St. Louis Rams franchise history.
Pro Football Career
The New Orleans Saints made Marc Bulger the 168th overall selection of the 2000 NFL Draft.
When Bulger was at the pinnacle of his pro football career in 2007, Pasquarelli interviewed two NFL personnel executives who sized him up prior to the draft festivities.
Both executives thought Bulger had mediocre arm strength and mobility, small stature, and the inability to throw the football into tiny passing windows during an all-out blitz.
Some seven years or so later, Bulger proved them wrong.
“I think that just everyone had a low-round grade on him,” one of the executives told Pasquarelli in 2007. “Obviously, I think now that just about everyone (screwed) up. It happens,”
Unfortunately, Bulger never played a single down in the 2000 NFL season.
The Saints released Bulger at the end of training camp in the summer of 2000.
Bulger then played for the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad for two weeks during the 2000 NFL campaign.
Bulger’s fortunes changed when the St. Louis Rams‘ practice squad signed him up several weeks later.
The Rams eventually signed Bulger to their regular roster on January 12, 2001.
Little did Marc Bulger know he’d spend the next decade in St. Louis.
Bulger was the Rams’ third quarterback behind Kurt Warner and Jamie Martin. He never took the field in St. Louis’ 16 regular-season games and three postseason contests.
Marc Bulger finally got his long-awaited chance in the 2002 NFL season.
After both Warner and Martin came down with injuries, Bulger took over as the Rams’ starting quarterback in Week 6.
At that point, the Rams, who won Super Bowl XXXIV two-and-a-half years earlier, were 0-5.
After watching the Notre Dame-Pitt game, Jim Bulger flew to St. Louis to watch his son’s first NFL start against the Oakland Raiders on October 14, 2002.
Marc Bulger, the former hoops aspirant from Pittsburgh, was finally a starting quarterback in the National Football League.
He had officially come full circle.
3rd string QB Marc Bulger got the call in 2002 and delivered. The Rams defeated the Raiders 28-13 in week 6, getting their first win of the season.@ESPNchrisberman with the call.#stlrams pic.twitter.com/QxDr0fVetP
— St Louis Rams History (@STLRamsHistory) January 27, 2022
He also didn’t disappoint in his first NFL start: he completed 14 of 21 passes for 186 yards and three touchdown passes with zero picks.
The Rams defeated the Raiders, 28-13.
After the final whistle blew, a beaming Jim Bulger couldn’t have been any happier.
“It was gratifying to watch Marc get what he wanted, to finish the evolution,” he told Pasquarelli in 2002. “But no, I wasn’t living out the dream vicariously through him. I was just another nervous father.”
Bulger promptly led St. Louis to an unblemished 6-0 record in games he started and finished.
Although Bulger sustained a season-ending injury against the Seattle Seahawks, the Rams finished 7-9.
It was a respectable finish considering St. Louis lost its first five games of the season.
Marc Bulger finished his first year as a starting NFL quarterback with 1,826 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, and six interceptions.
It turned out he was just getting started.
Rams head coach Mike Martz made Bulger the full-time starter in 2003 after Warner committed five turnovers and sustained a concussion against the New York Giants in Week 1.
Bulger responded with 3,845 passing yards and 22 touchdowns. He also had 22 interceptions on the season.
With Bulger under center, the Rams went 12-4 and won the NFC West.
It came as no surprise that he earned the first of his two Pro Bowl nods in 2003.
With a win today, the #Rams would be 5-3 for the first time since 2003.
You know, the Marc Bulger era. pic.twitter.com/s0cHkZERJf
— Rams SPORTalk (@SPORTalkRams) November 8, 2015
St. Louis eventually released Warner, the face of the franchise, in the summer of 2004.
The turn of events paved the way for Bulger to sign a lucrative four-year, $19.1 million deal with the Rams.
Bulger proved his breakout 2003 NFL campaign was no fluke.
He had 3,964 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, and 14 touchdowns a season later.
Despite a mediocre 8-8 win-loss record, St. Louis still earned a postseason berth.
Unfortunately, the Rams lost to Michael Vick’s Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Divisional Round in blowout fashion, 47-17.
A nagging shoulder injury limited Bulger to just ten games in the 2005 NFL season.
He finished the year with 2,297 passing yards, 14 touchdown passes, and nine interceptions.
The Rams took a step backward in 2005. They won just six games and began a postseason drought that lasted 12 years.
Marc Bulger came back from his shoulder injury to throw a career-high 4,301 passing yards and 24 touchdowns in 2006.
Consequently, Bulger became a Pro Bowler for the second time in his pro football career.
St. Louis won eight games – their highest win total in the next eleven seasons – in 2006.
Despite the Rams’ ineptitude, Bulger continued rising in the quarterback ranks.
He signed a six-year, $62.5 million contract in the summer of 2007.
Marc Bulger – Kurt Warner’s former backup and a player the Saints and Falcons shunned – became the highest-paid player in Rams franchise history.
Marc Bulger is one of the most underappreciated players in St. Louis Rams history. Many fans remember him for his rapid decline late in his career, but Bulger should be remembered for leading the Rams to the playoffs twice and putting up monster numbers in the process. pic.twitter.com/3zvJvv2zqv
— Jimmy (@jimmy_cuccaro) November 22, 2021
Alas, Bulger’s play on the gridiron took a turn for the worst after he signed a hefty paycheck with St. Louis.
Injuries to Bulger and the Rams’ offensive line took a massive toll on his performance.
He had more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (11) for the first time in his six-year stint in St. Louis.
Bulger’s unfortunate downward spiral regrettably continued until he played his last down with the Rams in 2009.
When Bulger became the Rams’ highest-paid player in 2007, St. Louis won an average of just two games in the next three seasons.
Truly, it was a dark time in St. Louis Rams franchise history.
Marc Bulger experienced a double whammy when his career with the Rams wound down in 2009.
The Rams placed him on injured reserve on December 26, 2009. St. Louis finished the 2009 NFL season with a dismal 1-15 win-loss record: the worst in franchise history.
Bulger eventually asked the Rams to release him.
They granted his wish on his 33rd birthday on April 5, 2010.
Bulger agreed to a one-year, $3.8 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens two-and-a-half months later.
Bulger served as starter Joe Flacco’s backup. The former never played a single down in the Charm City in the 2010 NFL season.
The Ravens went 12-4 that year. Unfortunately, they lost to their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the AFC Divisional Round, 31-24.
Marc Bulger decided to retire from the National Football League in the summer of 2011. He was thirty-four years old when he hung up his cleats.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, several teams, including the Arizona Cardinals, expressed interest in Bulger.
However, when the Cardinals traded for Kevin Kolb, that interest eventually waned.
Bulger thanked former Rams head coach Mike Martz for giving him an opportunity to become a starting NFL quarterback.
“I am grateful to my former teammates, coaches, and family,” Bulger told Schefter on August 3, 2011. “I have a special place in my heart for Coach Martz for giving me an opportunity.”
Marc Bulger finished his NFL career with 22,814 passing yards, 122 touchdown passes, and 93 interceptions.
Marc Bulger and his wife, the former Mavis Armbruster, have two daughters. Their family currently resides in Brentwood, TN.
Bulger launched The Marc Bulger Foundation in 2007.
Its mission is to increase awareness and support programs that benefit men and women in the armed forces as well as children with serious, life-threatening ailments.
According to BVM Sports’ Cory Kluge, Bulger has been ardently following the West Virginia Mountaineers and Los Angeles Rams during his retirement years.
Bulger is also an avid golfer who competes with sports personalities such as current ESPN Monday Night Football play-by-play man Joe Buck.
Bulger became a pioneer member of West Virginia University’s Mountaineer Legends Society in 2016.
Back at it pic.twitter.com/QBtEhYzyH5
— Marc Bulger (@MarcBulger10) December 16, 2019
Bulger is also part of the All-Pro Curling Team that includes retired NFL stars Jared Allen, Keith Bulluck, and Michael Roos.
Bulger told BBC Sport’s Katie Falkingham in March 2019 that Allen approached him a year earlier and told him he wanted to become an Olympian.
Ironically, Allen suggested he and Bulger try badminton.
However, their massive football frames were ill-suited for the game – badminton players in general were smaller and more agile than their gridiron counterparts.
“Jared then came back with curling,” Bulger told Falkingham. “We did it a couple of times and fell in love with it.”
Bulger admitted curling looked easy at first.
However, it was an entirely different story when he, Allen, and the rest of their team took the ice.
Bulger’s goal during his first two months of learning curling was not to fall.
While he couldn’t avoid that, he told BBC Sport the pain of falling while curling doesn’t compare to the type he experienced on the NFL giridron.
At that moment, Bulger told Falkingham that he broke more than 30 bones when he played in the National Football League.
Bulger’s adjustment to curling was a massive one.
When he was a quarterback in the NFL, he was accustomed to playing in an upright position.
When Bulger plays curling, he has to crouch.
Consequently, he had to perform plenty of core work in the gym so he could adapt to his newfound passion.
Bulger also revealed another surprise benefit of curling.
“Let’s just say I have bird legs, so it’s definitely helped my quad muscles,” he told BBC Sport in 2019.
According to Falkingham, Bulger’s All-Pro Curling Team flew to Minneapolis, MN twice monthly in the years leading up to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Bulger loves curling so much that he opened Tee Line, a Nashville-based sports bar and the city’s first curling venue.
Tee Line has three sheets of ice for curling, four bowling lanes, and twenty-six televisions.
The sports bar sits on a 2.49-acre property that Bulger bought for an estimated $2.2 million in the summer of 2019, per the Nashville Post’s William Williams.