Looking at Mariota's statistics for this season, it wasn't hard to tell why he captured the attention of so many across the country. He has thrown 38 touchdown passes, ran for 14 more and had one pass reception for a score. Not only that, but in nearly every game, Mariota would do something that drew the oohs and aahs of observers -- fans or foes alike.
“If this guy isn't what the Heisman Trophy is all about, then I'm in the wrong profession,” said Oregon Head Coach Helfrich about Mariota following the Ducks 51-13 win over Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship game. “Just on the field and off the field, our team is made up of a bunch of guys that are in his mold, and a lot of that is due to his leadership. Obviously, that speaks for itself. But if you want your son or daughter to have a role model, pick this guy.”
A slightly embarrassed Mariota responded.
“Thanks Coach for all the nice things you said,” said Mariota humbly in response to Helfrich’s compliment. “I wouldn't be in this position without my teammates. There are 11 football players that have to play. You know, without those guys in the locker room, none of this would be possible. Again, I'm just very proud of the guys in the locker room and just thankful that we got the win.”
More than the running, throwing and winning it is the genuine humility and the ability to put people at ease; whether it was a freshman offensive lineman to a grizzled and skeptical sports writer, it is easy to like Marcus Mariota.
Even during interviews, when he can expect to see ten or twenty reporters with microphones, the bright lights of cameras with deadlines hovering, Mariota takes the time to look directly at the person asking the question, patiently wait for the question to be asked then make a sincere attempt to answer the question.
The native Hawaiian is a calm, cool dude. Perhaps it was the upbringing from his loving family in paradise that caused him to be so easy going and unflappable. Whatever it was, the former St. Louis High School one-year starting quarterback demonstrates it on the field for the Oregon Ducks.
Last week in the Pac-12 Conference Championship game, Mariota found himself surrounded by hostile Arizona defensive linemen looking to stop him from executing. Mariota though turned to toward the near sideline, only to side step a diving defensive end and change directions to the far side of the field, maneuvering around another Wildcat, then sprinting out and tossing a jump pass 46 yards down the field hitting receiver Darren Carrington, perfectly in the hands for the catch. On the next play Mariota again rolled out to his right and threw across his body again to Carrington, for an 11-yard TD strike.
The numbers of course speak for themselves. In 13 games he was 254-for-372 passing (68.3 percent) 3,783 yards, 38 touchdowns with a long of 80, 291.0 yard per game average and only two interceptions, giving him a quarterback efficiency rating of 186.3.
He also rushed for net 669-yards, 14 TDs with a long of 61 yards and average of 51.5 ypg.
Mariota is the first player from the University of Oregon and the second Heisman recipient from the state of Oregon since Terry Baker was similarly honored in 1962. Mariota is also the first player from Hawaii and the first player with Polynesian ancestral roots to be named the best player in college football.
Mariota could have gone to the NFL following last season but chose to stay in school for one more year. He has completed his requirements for a General Science degree and holds a 3.22 grade point average.
No doubt in both states and places all around the country, youngsters will look at the soft-spoken Mariota and see a true role model. A humble man who doesn't lose control of his emotions who is a fierce competitor but at the same time quick to pat an opponent on the back for a game well played.
There is no question of Mariota’s qualifications for the Heisman Trophy and on this Saturday night, the voters who select the winner of the award got it right.