Senator from Florida is 2016's freshest face, a football fanatic and "spitter"

By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
Updated April 14, 2015 08:45 AM
Joe Skipper/Reuters/Landov

Marco Rubio’s only been in national politics since being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010. But now that the Florida Republican has entered the 2016 presidential race, voters will hear a lot about him.

Here’s some of the fun stuff you likely won’t find in his position papers.

1. He’s a Football Fanatic

As a Florida legislator who grew up playing football and played for one year on scholarship at Tarkio College in Missouri, Rubio is “really football, football, football crazy,” Manuel Roig-Franzia, author of The Rise of Marco Rubio tells PEOPLE.

NFL draft season was akin to a national holiday, Roig-Franzia says. “During arguments over legislation, Rubio would be right there at his desk on the House floor going through the football draft book.”

And don’t get Rubio started on the fact that he has caught passes from both Dan Marino and Tim Tebow. During his U.S. Senate campaign, Rubio Tweeted that he was the “only U.S. Senate candidate to ever catch a pass from Tim Tebow! See it yourself.” (These passes were tossed at state legislature appearances – not on the field – but who’s counting?)

2. He Married a Miami Dolphin Cheerleader (We Warned You About the Football Thing!)

Long before she had four children and worked as a consultant for a philanthropic foundation and as an activist against human trafficking, Jeanette Rubio was a cheerleader for her husband’s beloved Dolphins.

But he loved her before she ever picked up a pom-pom. The two met in 1991, when Rubio was taking college classes and Jeanette Dousdebes was, as Rubio recalled in his autobiography, “a beautiful 17-year-old brunette.”

When Jeanette went out for the squad in 1997, Rubio was all for it. “I wanted her to be able to do anything that made her happy, and to have something in her life that was hers and not mine as well,” he wrote in An American Son.

“I’m sure the possibility of free tickets to home games was a consideration.”

3. He Has Now-Rival Jeb Bush’s Endorsement As a ”Conservative Warrior”

When Rubio took over as Speaker of the House in the Florida legislature in 2005, Jeb Bush, who was Florida governor at the time, presented Rubio with a sword – and effusive praise.

“I can’t think back on a time when I’ve ever been prouder to be a Republican, Marco,” Bush said at the time. The sword, he added, belonged “to a great conservative warrior.”

Bush and Rubio will now fight it out for the Republican presidential nomination.

4. He Swept Nancy Reagan Clear off Her Feet

At a 2011 event, Rubio made himself an instant GOP hero by catching former First Lady Nancy Reagan as she stumbled.

“We joked that he tripped her,” his own staff later told Roig-Franzia.

5. He Can ”Spit”

Road-tripping across the state during his Senate campaign, Rubio liked to blast Snoop Dogg and sing along to the edgy rap. “He can spit!” one campaign staffer marveled, according to Roig-Franzia, whose biography was based on more than 100 interviews and thousands of documents.

Rubio acknowledges that rap – and its talk of drug use and violence – isn’t the best fit with his conservative profile. “Maybe I shouldn’t listen to that anymore, but the music is good,” he later told Politico in 2011.

You’ve “just got to sometimes ignore what their politics may be and just enjoy the music.”

BONUS TRIVIA: His groomsman was a movie star
Latin heartthrob singer and actor Carlos Ponce was married to Rubio’s sister, Veronica, and a member of Rubio’s 1998 wedding party.

The actor went on to become Veronica’s ex-husband – and a scene-stealer in the 2009 film Couples Retreat.

“He played the over-sexed yogi,” says Roig-Franzia.