Tony Dungy: Mariota is “Aaron Rodgers in Waiting”

Jordan Ingram FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

Oregon’s first Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota, was in the ManCave this morning for the Dan Patrick Show in New York City. Since winning the Heisman on Saturday, Mariota has made the media rounds, visiting a variety of television and radio programs, lugging the bronze statue with him everywhere he goes.

Following Mariota’s interview, Football Night in America’s Tony Dungy spoke with Patrick about the talents and NFL potential of the first Hawaiian Heisman Trophy winner.

“I promise you this, Dan — Marcus Mariota is a fantastic player. He’s going to be a great pro,” Dungy said.

Dungy had numerous opportunities to see Mariota first-hand during practices at Oregon. Dungy’s son, Eric, played for the Ducks for three seasons before transferring to USF. Everything Dungy saw indicated to him that Mariota was the total NFL package.

Mariota stands tall in the pocket at 6’4″ with great arm strength and quick feet. The Heisman winner also makes excellent decisions with the ball, throwing for 38 touchdowns and only two interceptions so far this season. But it’s Mariota’s refreshing personality and kind nature that has prospective NFL teams looking to the Oregon star for their next franchise quarterback.

“Not only is he going to be a great quarterback, he is going to be a great person, the face of the franchise for whoever takes him. I think this is Aaron Rodgers in the waiting,” Dungy said.

While Mariota sets a wonderful example of the ideal collegiate athlete, Patrick expressed concerns over Mariota’s soft-spoken demeanor, asking Dungy whether or not that would be an issue in the NFL.

“It could be if you go to New York or some place where there’s just so much on you. But again, if he’s like Peyton Manning and he goes to an Indianapolis or — I’m going to throw in my home town — Tampa Bay, he’s going to be perfect. He’s going to be fine, and he will grow into that, but he has no issues in front of the team, he has no issues being the leader that you needs to be. That media stuff will come if it’s not a market that eats you up like New York or Philadelphia,” Dungy said.

No matter where Mariota ends up, he will bring his tireless work ethic, superior athleticism and giant heart with him. And perhaps eventually he will leave the Heisman Trophy at home.

Watch for more Mariota on The Late Show with David Letterman tonight on CBS.

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