The Secret Factor in Mariota’s Heisman Bid

Jack Heffernan FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

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.

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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