Marco Rubio has been setting himself up as a potential 2016 candidate for president since he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010. He's still relatively new on the national stage, but he made a name for himself giving the Republican rebuttal of the 2013 State of the Union and in the national debate on immigration reform.
Here are seven facts that you might not know about the 43-year-old Cuban-American:
Rubio's parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1956, and even though they were prepared to live in this country permanently, he said they always hoped they could return to their home island someday. That became an impossibility when Fidel Castro rose to power. “They were from Cuba," he told The Washington Post
. "They wanted to live in Cuba again. They tried to live in Cuba again, and the reality of what it was made that impossible.”
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Football was an important part of Rubio's teenage years, and he was good enough to earn a scholarship to Tarkio College in Missouri. But after one year he returned to Florida to attend community college and eventually the University of Florida.
As 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney was determining his vice presidential running mate, it was revealed by BuzzFeed
that Rubio had been baptized as a Mormon when he was about 8 years old. The family was living in Las Vegas at the time. A few years later, he returned to the Catholic Church. For the four of five years he was affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Rubio was enthusiastic about his religion. “He was totally into it,” a cousin said. “He’s always been into religion. Football and religion. Those were his things.”
Along with his attraction to the Mormon faith, Rubio took a strong liking to the Osmond family when he was a boy. From the "Rise of Marco Rubio" biography, author Manuel Roig-Franzia wrote, "Marco, his sister, Veronica, and their cousin Michelle liked to perform Osmond songs at family get-togethers. ‘Tony’—as the cousins called Marco... — was so entranced by the Osmonds that he joined [a] … trip to Provo, Utah, to tour the pop group’s recording studio." Rubio said his family band was called the Sunshine Cousins.
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While Rubio once dreamed of playing in the NFL, his wife actually made it onto pro football's biggest stage. Jeanette Rubio was a Dolphins cheerleader for one season while they were dating. Said Rubio, who apparently used to cheer her on from the stands
: "I can tell my kids that one of their two parents used to work on an NFL field, but it was not their dad."
Though he never played in the NFL, Rubio received something nearly as good after he went into politics. Among his coolest experiences, Rubio recalls
, was catching passes from Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and University of Florida star Tim Tebow.
If you're going to talk music with Rubio—whose first concert was a Prince show—don't bring up the disco era. Once while discussing how scary the 1970s were with Richard Nixon's resignation and Jimmy Carter's presidency, he joked
, "Most troubling of all we had to overcome disco and bellbottoms and the Bee Gees."
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