This morning I interviewed Marcus Mariota and Hroniss Grasu at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex after practice.
One of the biggest topics of discussion going into this week’s game against Cal is how preparing for a Friday game is affecting the players. The boys, as well as the fans, are all used to a Saturday battle (and a Thursday every now and then), so what is different when the game is played on a Friday?
Asked if he felt any different, Grasu said, “No; honestly, today feels like a Wednesday to me.”
One of my favorite things about the responses we get from the players is that they always say they prepare for every game the same. There is always something to work on and adjustments to be made to prepare for the forthcoming opponent, but the players work just as hard, if not harder, than they did the week before. Heck, they’re even working harder than they did the day before!
When Mariota was asked how this week’s practice schedule looked, he explained that they ran their Monday practice on Sunday, Tuesday practice on Monday, and so on for the rest of the week.
Asked if he had mixed up any days of the week, Mariota laughed and said, “Kind of. It’s weird to play on a Friday, but it’ll be a fun atmosphere.”
Another topic of discussion was how the guys feel about getting to play in an NFL stadium. Mariota was asked specifically if he was approaching this game with the mindset that this is the kind of stadium he will play in someday. “I haven’t really put much thought into that,” he responded.
Based on my interviews this morning, I see two evident facts about our Ducks that are very pleasing to me (and I’m sure to the rest of the fans, too). First, every game is just as important as the last and just as important as the next. They go out on the field every day and try to get better, and then we get to see how that translates onto the field. Second, Mariota apparently hasn’t put much thought into his someday in the NFL, and in my eyes, that means he is focused on the here and now.
I don’t doubt a future professional football career has crossed his mind, and I’m sure it’s a topic that crosses many players’ minds. I do, however, find comfort in knowing that every time they step out onto the field in green and yellow, whether it is the practice field or an NFL stadium, they are focused on what is important at that moment.
Having a football team so dedicated and loyal to the program with committed, loyal and supportive fans is just one reason I love the University of Oregon so much. Go Ducks!
Top Photo by Kevin Cline