The Secret Factor in Mariota’s Heisman Bid

Throughout this upcoming season, fans and media professionals alike will debate every stat, game, and “Heisman Moment” in an attempt to determine whether or not Marcus Mariota deserves to win Oregon’s first Heisman Trophy.

If people bother to consider performance off the field this season, it will distinguish Mariota from the past two winners.

Both Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston did not handle the Heisman spotlight well at times. In the eyes of many, the numerous viral videos of party-loving Manziel uncovered a flaw in an otherwise sparkling resume. Similarly, a sexual assault allegation and  citation for stealing crab legs have created questions about the character of Winston, the reigning trophy winner.

It’s certainly possible that the Heisman voters are concerned that these incidents stain the reputation of the prestigious award. As such, they may take a candidate’s ability to be a positive ambassador for the trophy off the field into account more than in previous years.

Based solely on this criteria, voters would be hard pressed to find a better candidate than Marcus Mariota.

Mariota will be a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this season.

Kevin Cline

Mariota will be a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this season.

By all accounts, Mariota is a humble, low-key individual. You’re more likely to find him eating pizza with friends than drinking from a beer bong on a Friday night in Eugene.

Granted, it’s obviously a mistake to judge someone’s character based solely on heresay. However, a glance at Mariota’s feats in the classroom add a little more perspective.

In recent years, Mariota has been frequently seen studying on campus, which has paid enormous dividends. Just over a week ago, the 20-year-old Mariota received his degree in engineering after just three years of classes, an impressive feat considering the highly-publicized workload of student athletes. On top of that, he compiled a 3.6 GPA by the end of his second year of study.

The recent graduate projects his intelligence regularly in his post game interviews. Articulately, Mariota speaks to the media with a humility that positively represents Oregon Football and the NCAA in general. His ability to speak with the media stands in stark contrast to that of Jameis Winston, as anyone who listened to interviews following the BCS National Championship would agree.

Mariota displays his humility not only when talking with the media, but on the field as well. In contrast with most football players of this era, the speedy quarterback doesn’t resort to flashy celebrations when scoring a touchdown. He simply hugs his teammates and gives the ball to the referee. Mariota’s reserved celebrations are a far cry from the gesture that Johnny Manziel makes with his hands, which basically screams, “Pay me!”

Flashy celebrations, poor interviews, and even certain off-field issues should not harm a player’s Heisman campaign. However, in this particular season, Heisman voters might be looking to give the trophy to a more quiet player who will generate more positive headlines. If a particular voter is torn between choosing Mariota or another candidate who generates negative headlines, he or she may break the tie by rewarding the player who will be a better ambassador of the esteemed prize.

While Mariota’s personality will not play into the decision for many voters, even a few votes in his favor could decide a close race.

Top Photo: Kevin Cline 

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Jack Heffernan

Jack Heffernan

Jack is a journalism student at the University of Oregon. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Jack has been interested in sports journalism since middle school. He wrote for his high school newspaper, as well as two high school sports websites (prep2prep and Patch). In college, Jack covered both high school and college sports for Lane Today. He aspires to be a beat reporter covering a major professional sports team.

  • 1pac12fan

    I’m not sure why Marioatta wasn’t in The top 5 last year?!? I lost faith in the Hiesman years ago. It appears to be nothing more than a popularity contest these days…

    • funnytoes

      Marcus was the #1 before his injury and losses that directly were attributable to his lessened performances.

      • 1pac12fan

        The body of work disagrees, in my opinion. Even with the post injury numbers, Mariotta was stellar! Combined with his character and integrity, Mariotta’s 2013 numbers support a trip to New York, at the very least.

        • funnytoes

          Losing to Stanford? 2 years in a row? Nope. And then the loss to a weak AZ team sealed it.
          I like the guy, but his performance didn’t make it. The Heisman ain’t for “almost” or “could have”— it’s about what you accomplish.
          For two years in a row, whatever the reason, MM hasn’t led us to wins over Stanford.

          • 1pac12fan

            Funnytoes, there were 21 other starters on the field, several of which played a much more prominent role in why UO lost to Stanford. Look at the body of work. Analyze the statistics. Mariotta’s numbers compared to every other finalist were at the very worst, comperable; and in most cases superior! I am not stating he should have won the Heisman (althought you can make the case), but I am saying he should have been a finalist. Compare the stats for yourself… There is no logical reason why he wasn’t invited to New York. In the end, I suppose you and I can agree to disagree…

  • Gary McAuley

    Take a look at so you have a keen idea why Mariota wasn’t considered last year. Same applies – historically – with West Coast QB’s in general.
    So Mariota is an uphill battle. I mean look at Andrew Luck for gosh sakes. If he couldn’t win, with the numbers he was posting at Stanford (and John Elway, for that matter) what chance does a Mariota or any other West Coast college player have???

  • hoboduck

    I agree with 1pac12fan that the trophy has lost it’s luster, based on the following mission statement of the award.

    The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit
    of excellence with integrity.

    Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award. The Trust, furthermore, has a charitable mission to support amateur athletics and to provide greater opportunities to the youth of our country.

    Our goal through these charitable endeavors is for the Heisman Trophy to symbolize the fostering of a sense of community responsibility and service to our youth, especially those disadvantaged or afflicted.

    All assets of the Trust beyond the expense of maintaining the annual presentation of the Heisman Memorial Trophy are reserved for such charitable causes.

    The Trustees, who all serve pro bono, are guided by adevotion to college football and are committed to community service and the
    valued tradition which the Trophy represents.
    It is NOT an award where the recipients on field stats are the ONLY criteria. Seems we (Heisman committee) have forgotten what integrity is and why it is so important to apply it to this award every year.
    Go Ducks WTD

    • funnytoes

      Agree, the “integrity” part of the Heisman description has gone missing.
      I don’t think one needs to be a nun to be considered, but a guy w/a sexual assault charge and a guy who acts like a 16-year old in Vegas are what the original committee specifically did NOT want.

    • 1pac12fan

      Thanks for sharing, Hoboduck. Your post precisely describes how a Heisman recipient should behave. Unfortunately, integrity and character no longer matter. Brand recognition and popularity are the criteria today. Quite sad really. If I were a past Heisman trophy award winner, I would be outspoken against what the trophy embodies currently.

  • Godux

    The biggest effect the last two winners may have on the voters, who really want a clean image, it that it may be quite a while before ANY freshman star gets the award. It’d be much harder to avoid exposing poor behavior for more than a year rather than just south of two semesters/quarters on a college campus. Prior to these two miscreants, a freshman had never won, and that’s going become the norm again.