Marcus Mariota: Better Than Advertised

Marcus Mariota is a heck of a football player. He can throw, run, and his cool demeanor lends itself to the pocket presence responsible for many of the jaw-dropping plays he makes routine. But while physically and athletically gifted, it’s the person that differentiates him from his peers, and the combination that deserves an unprecedented level of adoration at the University Of Oregon.

At a time when the NFL and it’s players are drowning in a sea of negativity, and college football’s “best player” is stockpiling a lifetime’s worth of idiocy, Oregon’s All-American quarterback remains an outlier of integrity in a sport with a diminishing level of just that.

From domestic abuse, to corporal punishment, continuing with petty thievery, and most recently illegal benefits revolving around one’s signature, football and the players who play it are knee-deep in a public relations quick-sand pulling at an unprecedented rate. Enemies of the game you and I love, are looking for reasons to put an end to a sport increasingly disabled by the serious health risks that have and are becoming more relevant by the day. And buffoons like Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and college football’s Heisman Trophy winner, are making it easier for haters to hate, and harder for fans to root for guys who just don’t get it.

Four years ago, Oregon was a year removed from a near miss at a national title the program had previously rarely sniffed. And while seeking redemption for what had eluded them a season prior, rumors began to swirl about a true freshman quarterback who was pushing the incumbent partially responsible for the success of the championship run. While some scoffed at the notion and went as far as to deem such rhetoric from a coaching staff trying to motivate, people in “the know” legitimized the talk and raved of the Hawaiian with the type of size and athleticism rarely found at the quarterback position. Four years later, Marcus has become the quarterback we’d heard so much about, and the quarterback fans should feel lucky to have had.

And to steal a line from legendary actor Clint Eastwood, “Do you feel lucky?”

You should, because players like Mariota don’t come around often. Humility and elite athleticism are not often synonymous. Nor are “team-first,” sportsmanship, or selflessness frequently used to describe the superstars of a game that feed the type of entitlement bred from a Pee Wee’s first touchdown. But while infrequent amongst the masses, all are commonly used to describe the silent assassin with a smooth release, and the gait to match.

I enjoyed watching quarterbacks like Bill Musgrave, Danny O’Neil, and Akili Smith. Enjoyed the runs of Joey Harrington, Dennis Dixon, and Darron Thomas. But Mariota has truly been my favorite. It’s a joy to watch a player make it look so easy, and refreshing that he’ll never tell you how easy it is. He makes a mockery of the routine, routine of the difficult, and possible of the impossible; and often when he has no business doing just that.

He played the latter half of last season on 1 leg, and the majority of this season thus far, behind a line dismantled to the point of ineptitude. Did he crumble amidst such adversity? No, he managed like no other and complained to no one. Surprising? Not at all. Impressive? Absolutely.

During Marcus’ tenure in Eugene, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel, and Jameis Winston have all won Heisman Trophies. In the wake of such, you’ve had a lot of self-adoration, immaturity, and chicanery some would define as criminal activity. Marcus Mariota should be this year’s Heisman winner, not only because he’s arguably the game’s best player, but because he’d represent the award in the manner in which it was intended. Problem being; he still needs to produce the numbers necessary over the final six to seven games, and the team needs to do their part to secure the wins necessary to keep him in the conversation.

The former I’m confident in, the latter?

Still up in the air, but you can’t tell me the award and those who vote for it wouldn’t love to give it to Marcus considering the mockery the last 2 winners have made of it. And you can’t tell me the award and what came with it wouldn’t be the perfect ending for a player who’s earned the right to exactly that.

I’d love to see Oregon win out, Marcus Mariota win the Heisman, and the team with all the preseason expectations gets a shot at the inaugural NCAA playoff. But more than anything I’d like to see the nation, this state, and the university he represents fully appreciate just how special this guy is; as a quarterback and as a young man the football community should be proud of.

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