I get lot of football dads that like to ask me about certain college or NFL quarterbacks, and with the national championship coming up Marcus Mariota is a hot topic. I had a dad ask me if I thought Mariota could make it in the NFL, and what makes him such a great football player. There is so much young quarterbacks can learn from the model Mariota sets that I thought it would be worth a blog post.
Most obviously, Marcus has some serious physical ability. His speed and acceleration is electric. When he runs read option, one of Oregon's go-to schemes, he carries a bigger threat with the ball in his hands than his runningbacks do. As far as how this translates to the NFL, it's a nice luxury more than a necessity, but it certainly adds a dimension that many coaches are looking for. He needs to make sure it's a skill that's used in moderation and to help him complement his passing ability.
His arm talent is very good, too - he has the ability to make every throw, be consistently accurate down the field, and make the wide throws outside the numbers. In addition to that, his reads defenses very well. He doesn't have to throw into too many tight windows because he reads coverages well and finds the open man. Many draft pundits are holding his open receivers against him instead of saying he reads the field well.
Most importantly for this post, though, he has a humble confidence that is so hard to find in today's game. He deflects credit, builds up his teammates, always looks for what he can do better, and accepts blame even when it's not his to take. This contrasts strongly to the two previous Heisman winners, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston. We seem to be in a day of age where most stars mistake arrogance for confidence. They feel the need to tell everyone how good they are, don't deal with failure very well, and have a sense of entitlement to preferential treatment and fun. Arrogance and overconfidence create a player who becomes complacent, somewhat evidenced by Johnny Manziel's admission that he needs to work harder than he did his rookie season with the Browns. Marcus Mariota is a great example of what confidence really is. He doesn't need to tell everyone how great he is. He doesn't run up to cameras and pose for the front page. He doesn't draw extra attention to himself. That's what much of today's youth defines confidence as - bravado and "swag." Marcus Mariota doesn't do those things, but does anyone doubt that he believes in his abilities? He has confidence because he has put in the work, is thorough in his preparation, and is ready to perform. He just isn't arrogant enough to tell everyone about it.
We currently have a lack of good role models in sports, but Mariota is a much brighter beacon of hope for that cause. His skills are tremendous, but his character is even greater. I know there isn't a player I've rooted for harder in recent memory. If I were picking first overall, I'd have zero reservations about picking Mariota as the face of my franchise.
SPU's Alex Drayson writes the SPU Football Performance Blog.