In this week’s most captivating college football matchup, No. 3 Oregon takes on No. 7 Michigan State Saturday evening. Oregon, entering the season with five BCS bowl appearances in six years, hopes to live up to preseason expectations by making it to this year’s College Football Playoff. Billed as one of the elite college quarterbacks, a successful Oregon campaign depends on Marcus Mariota’s game under center.
Can Mariota, the Pac-12 passer with 4,380 all-purpose-yards in 2013, lead Oregon to victory against Michigan State’s vaunted defense?
Here’s what you need to know about the quarterback already billed as next year’s number one NFL draft pick.
1. He is a Weekly Community Volunteer Throughout the Spring, Summer & Winter
Mariota is known for an arm that has produced a 24-3 record for the Ducks. Less known is his participation as a volunteer in Eugene, Oregon since he arrived there in 2012. In the offseason, Mariota joins a few other teammates each week to spend time at a variety of community activities. A few weeks ago, that meant spending time at the local Boys & Girls Club.
“Helping these kids and mentoring,” Mariota says, “has allowed me to grow up … and find my comfort level.” He adds that such community service makes him “feel like I’ve come a long way.”
2. He Doesn’t Relish the Attention His On-field Pedigree Brings Him
For a quarterback with Heisman-like offensive production, the opportunity for media attention is gigantic. But unlike those who have been in a similar position – Manziel, Newton, Teo’o – Mariota not only avoids the spotlight, he actively spurns it.
This summer, he fulfilled a self-imposed exile from Eugene, Oregon and the media circus. Instead, he returned home to Hawaii to spend time with family.
3. Yes. He Really Is That Good
Believe the hype. Over the past two years, Mariota has an impressive 14-1 home record. He’s amassed 8,119 yards as a Duck, 1,150 on the ground. Last year, Mariota led the Pac-12 in total yards per play, total touchdowns, passing yards per attempt and passer efficiency, and only four quarterbacks had more passing yards per attempt. Since 1956, only three collegiate football players have accrued more adjusted passing yards per attempt than Mariota.
He is the real deal.
4. He Has an Easy Semester in the Classroom: Golf & Yoga
After a stellar year as a redshirt sophomore in 2013, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder opted to use his last year of NCAA eligibility. But with the majority of his class work completed, Mariota only needs a “couple” of credits to graduate.
Which classes is he taking to do so? Golf and yoga.
Don’t be too outraged: the two-time first-team All-Pac-12 quarterback was enrolled in multiple upper-division science courses during last year’s impressive season.
5. He was Offered a Football Scholarship to Oregon Before Ever Starting a Varsity High School Game
Mariota was a relative unknown heading into his senior season at St. Louis High School in hometown Honolulu, Hawaii. Nevertheless, as a backup quarterback with zero experience as a varsity starter, former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly offered him a scholarship after Mariota’s junior year. He would go on to lead his squad to the state championship, compiling 2,597 yards through the air and 455 yards on the ground his senior season.