The 2014 Heisman Trophy is but a beginning for Marcus Mariota.
The next narrative up to bat when it comes to Oregon’s historic quarterback is a good old-fashioned curse.
It always has to be something, right?
A curse that pertains to the most prestigious individual accolade in collegiate sports takes multiple forms. One thought process is that the winner of the Heisman Trophy goes on to lose his bowl game. The other pertains to the pro prospects of the individual.
Mariota will handle both with the cool demeanor and efficiency that got him to the podium Saturday night.
To understand why, one only needs to construct a time line of Mariota’s recent path to said podium. He put forth the best statistical season of his collegiate career this year all the while leading a one-loss team to the inaugural playoff.
His 68.3 completion percentage with 3,783 yards and 38 touchdowns to two interceptions got him the hardware, as did the complementary 669 yards and 14 scores on the ground. Perhaps more impressive, though, was the wealth of hurdles leaped in emphatic fashion.
The expected hiccup that had marred his first two years under center never really formed this year. Mariota threw three scores in a rout of an elite Michigan State defense (which still ranks 12th). He blew away Stanford, still owners of the second-ranked defense, with four total touchdowns. The Civil War (a trap game), is yet again an afterthought thanks to six total touchdowns. Five total in the Pac-12 Championship helped the Ducks to avenge their only loss on the year.
To think that Mariota will now succumb to the pressure in the CFP against Florida State after a major individual accomplishment is absurd.
This is especially the case considering the Ducks have shown no signs of slowing. Jameis Winston leads the opponent. A notable 24 touchdowns to 17 interceptions on the season were enough for the Seminoles signal-caller to miss Saturday’s ceremony. A 30th-ranked defense that cannot get off the field complements last year’s Heisman winner.
Anything short of a national title will prove a disappointment, but that portion of the curse is more archaic in thinking as of late. Gone are the days when Reggie Bush, Tim Tebow and other winners went on to lose bowl games. In are the days Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel and others take care of business, although winners are still 4-7 in bowl games and 2-6 in title games since 2000.
The pro portion of the curse is a different story.
Some of the guys mentioned above are too early on in their careers for it to be written that they have not lived up to the billing of the Heisman. With a great individual award comes great expectations.
NFL Network’s Rich Eisen sums up quite well what is in store for Mariota:
The fact is, many will point out Oregon’s schemes are conducive to lofty stats.
Regardless, domination such as this, per ESPN Stats & Info, will create droves of hype:
The conversation about No. 1 overall in the 2015 NFL draft is underway. Just ask CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler:
As crazy as it sounds, No. 1 overall is not out of the question.
Think about it. Character is a massive focus at quarterback now. Mariota has loads of it, is quiet off the field and a great leader on it. The biggest red flag? A speeding ticket.
“His big negative,” Nike co-founder Phil Knight said, per ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel, “is that he got a speeding ticket for going 80 in a 55 at 12:30 at night. What they didn’t tell is that he was coming back from a speech he gave to the Boys and Girls Club. He hung out with the kids too long.”
On the field, scouts and others in the know have already stated that his pro stock is through the roof when one puts all the moving pieces into one total package.
Details provided by Chase Goodbread of NFL.com put this on display well:
But that’s exactly how one NFL college scouting director sees it — and he doesn’t think it’s close. The director told NFL Media’s Albert Breer that he expects to assign a significantly higher draft grade to Mariota than the one he gave Griffin in 2012.
Speculation will run rampant about his pro prospects in the coming months. Mariota has the character and sheer talent (remember, this is a guy who did not start until his senior year of high school) to adapt to any situation and scheme.
For Mariota, the award is about more than just himself, as captured by Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:
The brevity to enjoy the accomplishment will not last long, though. Florida State and beyond awaits.
Given Mariota’s performance as of late, which culminated in the top prize available to collegiate players, he will overcome what rests ahead on his journey.
What got Mariota to this point is a foundation for something special. Whether it is a national title or a successful pro career that matches the hype, Mariota is not the average Heisman winner.
Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.