Setting the Stage
Marcus Mariota was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and attended Saint Louis School there where he was a two-sport star running track and playing football. In track, he competed in the sprints and long jumping. He helped his high school team win the state title with a 42.83 second 4x100 meter time as he ran the second leg. He ran a 11.63 second 100-meter, a 23.41 second 200-meter and long jumped 20’-7”. He did not start as a quarterback until he was a senior, but passed for 2,597 yards with 32 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. He also ran the ball well with 455 yards rushing and another 7 touchdowns.
Mariota admired the play of fellow Samoan, Jeremiah Masoli who also played and Saint Louis School and attended Oregon. Mariota attended an Oregon camp in the summer of 2010. The coaches there were intrigued enough to travel to Hawaii to watch him practice before his senior season and offered him a scholarship despite the fact that Mariota had yet to start a high school game at quarterback.
He was rated as a three-star quarterback by both Rivals.com and Scout.com and recruited by several schools but only Oregon and Memphis offered him a scholarship making the choice to attend Oregon an easy one.
He redshirted his first season and in 2012 became the first freshman to start a season opener by Oregon in 22 years. He started every game of his three years there. He played well from the start, completing 68.5% of his passes as a freshman, averaging 8.0 ypa and throwing for 32 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions. He improved every season, winning the Heisman Trophy as a junior with a 68.3% completion rate, passing for 4,454 yards (10.0 ypa) and throwing 42 touchdowns against 4 interceptions. He was also an effective runner with 2,237 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns in his three seasons. Oregon won 36 games with only 5 losses with Mariota leading them.
Following his junior season, he declared for the 2015 NFL Draft. Prior to the Combine, Mariota was considered one of the two top quarterbacks. He showed well measuring 6’-4” and 222 pounds and running the fastest 40-yard dash of all the quarterback at 4.52 seconds. He had a 36” vertical and broad jumped 10’-1”. His upside was his speed, quickness and mobility, but many questioned that he had played only in a spread offense that was predicated on simplified reads and had not operated often under center. He also had a huge downside in that many scheme based college quarterbacks are not ready for the challenges of reading defenses composed of superior athletes and his ability to go through progressions was doubted. Yet, Mike Mayock was very impressed by both Jameis Winston and Mariota. He thought that Mariota had excellent footwork, a sense of urgency and that he would be able to adapt getting under center.
The major storyline leading up to the draft was which Heisman winning quarterback, Mariota (2015) and Winston (2014) would go first and whether either Tampa Bay or Tennessee would trade their pick for an abundance of picks. Both stayed with their pick with Winston going 1st and Mariota 2nd. Surprisingly, no other quarterback was drafted until the 75th pick when Garrett Grayson was drafted by New Orleans. No quarterbacks besides Mariota and Winston played significant snaps last season.