Four years ago today, Marcus Mariota became the first player ever from the University of Oregon to win the Heisman trophy. He won by the second largest margin of victory ever.
He then gave a goose bump inducing, lump in the throat speech filled with humility and class. It should be used as a “how to” guide for anyone accepting any award.
“Thank you. I am humbled to be standing here today and honored by this award. Thank you, Heisman Trust, for making this night possible. Everything you do has made so many dreams come true. Amari [Cooper], Melvin [Gordon], it’s been a pleasure meeting you both, and I wish you continued success.
This award belongs to my teammates. The amount of hard work and sacrifice that each of them has made has not gone unnoticed. Thank you to the offensive line and their ability to fight through adversity. Thank you to the skill guys, who constantly make my job a lot easier. Thank you to the defense, for making our team complete and bailing the offense out of bad situations. And to all my teammates: I love every single one of you, and I’m truly grateful for all the experiences. I hope each of you will take pride and understand that this is your trophy.
Coach Helfrich, Coach Frost, and Coach Kelly, thank you for the opportunity. You took a chance on me, and I am truly grateful. And to the rest of the coaches and teachers throughout my life, thank you for the countless life lessons that have shaped me into who I am today.
Thank you to the University of Oregon for the education and support. Thank you to the community of Eugene, for the hospitality and allowing me to meet wonderful people like Phil Knight. Phil and Penny, thank you for your contributions to the university.
And to Duck fans everywhere: Thank you.
To the men of Kalaepohaku and the St. Louis [High School] brotherhood, thank you for teaching me to always be mindful and faithful. A special thanks goes to my boys, who believed in me. Thank you.
To Hawaii nei [beloved Hawaii], thank you for teaching me humility and respect.
Two aspects of my life that I will never change. To the Polynesian community, I hope and pray that this is only the beginning. Young Poly athletes everywhere, you should take this as motivation, and dream big and strive for greatness.
Finally, Mom, Dad, Matt and the rest of my family, thank you. Thank you for sacrificing and providing me and Matt every opportunity we could have. Words can’t express how much you guys mean to me. I’m truly grateful to have you guys in my life.
Mom and Dad, thank you for your love and for sharing that with me and Matt. We are truly grateful.
Fa’afetai tele lava [thank you very much]. God bless, and go Ducks.”
Four years later, it is still easy to see the level of respect he has amongst duck fans, non duck fans, and even non football fans. You can still see tons of kids all over Oregon and beyond wearing Mariota jerseys. I can’t think of a better role model.
While he was at Oregon, he used to take food from the team training area to pass out to the homeless on the streets of Eugene. He celebrated his 21st birthday at the Boys and Girls Club. I remember talking to a young man with special needs outside of the tunnel at Autzen Stadium, wearing a Mariota jersey. He told me, “Marcus high fives me after every game. He is my friend.”
He has been the same man in Nashville.
People root hard for Marcus Mariota, and have great joy in his success. They want him to be successful because of the tremendous gratitude they feel for him. The great football they watched him play at Oregon is only part of it.
The biggest part is Marcus Mariota the person. He provides us with something something so many long for these days; the role model athlete that both young and old can look up to.