A Heisman winner for the ages


Among the glitz and the glam and the constantly changing uniforms and facilities, one thing has remained constant for the Oregon Ducks in the past three seasons: Marcus Mariota. Mariota’s first ever start came against the Arkansas State Red Wolves and he was the first freshman (he redshirted in his first year at Oregon) to start at quarterback for the Ducks in 22 seasons. In that game, Mariota went 18/22 for 200 yards passing, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Since then, he has led the Ducks to a 35-4 record and its first ever Heisman winner. On Saturday, Mariota accepted the award and beat out finalists Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin and Amari Cooper from Alabama. His speech was memorable and for many Duck fans, a moment of pride and joy.

“Seeing Mariota win made me feel incredibly proud of him,” Kai Brusa, senior, said. “I’ve been a fan of his since he started in 2012 and his victory was a huge relief for me since I was rooting and hoping to see him win ever since he came to Oregon.”

In what is most likely his last season, Mariota has put up insane numbers, scoring 53 total touchdowns (38 passing, 14 rushing, and one receiving) to only five turnovers (two interceptions, and three fumbles). His impact on the field has been a result of the Ducks over two decade emergence into the limelight. Prior to 1990, a three win season was considered a “good season” but ever since Kenny Wheaton picked off a pass against the Washington Huskies, the culture around Oregon has been different. The result of Mariota’s Heisman victory will be felt long after he leaves Eugene..

“I think this will force Oregon into the ‘always talked about teams’ like Florida State, Alabama, and LSU,” Brusa said. “They went from being almost invisible to building their new dynasty with players like Joey Harrington, Dennis Dixon, Jonathan Stewart and LaMichael James.”

Mariota is arguably the greatest Duck to ever set foot in Autzen Stadium and his career statistics prove it. Compared to another great Oregon quarterback, Joey Harrington, who played four seasons for the Ducks, Mariota has 42 more passing touchdowns, 10 more rushing touchdowns and 11 fewer interceptions, all in just three seasons. Granted, the players Mariota played with are probably better than the ones Harrington played with, but those statistics are still impressive. Not only is he breathtaking on the field, but Mariota’s impact off the field is just as special. Volunteering with numerous organizations, Mariota has never been the subject of negative headlines, and is viewed as one of the nicest people ever. In fact, Amari Cooper tweeted this after watching Mariota win the Heisman,

“Congrats to Marcus Mariota. That man is truly the most humble and down to earth guy I have ever met. He has a very bright future just watch.”

Mariota’s impact as a person has been just as impressive as his play on the field. Rarely do we see athletes as humble as he is and his character is contagious.

“He makes you want to be a better person off the field and makes you realize that athletes aren’t all as arrogant as they seem to be,” Brusa said. “He also makes me proud to be a Duck.”

Throughout the years, Heisman winners seem to have that “Heisman play” and for Mariota, that play came against the Arizona Wildcats in his first ever Pac-12 Championship game. With the pocket collapsing around him, Mariota escaped two defenders, scrambled to the right and chucked a 47-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Darron Carrington off his back foot to where only Carrington could catch it. The next play, Mariota hooked up again with Carrington for a touchdown to put Oregon up 37-7.

In what may be Mariota’s final game as a Duck, he will take on last year’s Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston in the College Football Playoff semifinal game in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl at 2 p.m. Jan. 1.