Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy and won the hearts of college football fans this season.
After the bad taste the off-field troubles of last year’s Heisman winner Jameis Winston left in the collective mouth of football fans, Mariota provided a clear contrast.
He also played really, really well for one of the best teams in college football.
The Oregon junior has completed 68 percent of his passes this season for 4,111 yards and 40 touchdowns. He has thrown only three interceptions. Mariota is also a threat to run with 731 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.
In his career, he has passed for 10,463 yards and 103 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions.
This year Oregon averages 47.2 points a game, second only to Baylor, and is No. 3 nationally in total offense at 552.1 yards a game. The Ducks have a 36-4 record in games Mariota has started.
Mariota is a redshirt junior who probably will make himself eligible for the NFL draft. Once he gets there, some draft watchers project him as the No. 1 overall selection.
Mariota prefers to let his actions on the field speak for him, but knows he can’t do that anymore.
“I don’t like being in the limelight. I don’t like the spotlight,” Mariota said in a press conference before Oregon beat defending national champion Florida State and Winston, 59-20, in the Rose Bowl last Thursday.
“I would prefer just to go about my business and not have to deal with some of the stuff like this. It’s easier to handle some of this spotlight stuff when the team gets it,” he said.
A speeding ticket is the only blemish on his public image and he expressed his thanks 18 times during his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech.
Mariota grew up in Honolulu and played at the same high school as Jeremiah Masoli, who was Oregon’s quarterback the last time Ohio State and Oregon played, in the Rose Bowl after the 2009 season.
Because of Masoli, he had his heart set on going to Oregon and verbally committed to the Ducks in 2010 despite the fact that Johnny Manziel was verbally committed to Oregon at that time, before Manziel switched to Texas A&M.
Oregon recruits Hawaii hard, as do most Pac-12 schools. There are 36 players from Hawaii on Pac-12 rosters, including 17 linemen.
Oregon had seen tape of him when current head coach Mark Helfrich, who was the Ducks offensive coordinator at the time, watched him throw in person for the first time.
He watched for around five minutes and called head coach Chip Kelly, who said to offer him a scholarship.