Having won the Heisman Trophy, the Pac-12 title and just about every accolade possible this season, it’s not surprising to read that Marcus Mariota declares for the NFL Draft. Though the University of Oregon quarterback couldn’t lead the Ducks past Ohio State for the national championship, he did just about everything else he could during his storybook career.
Rumors swirled last season that Mariota was considering leaving after his sophomore season at Oregon. But Mariota hadn’t yet beaten Stanford during his college career, he hadn’t guided the Ducks to a Pac-12 title, and he hoped to make a run at the national title and possibly the Heisman.
After last season, Mariota and center Hroniss Grasu decided to return for at least one more hurrah. Though Mariota couldn’t get the Ducks over the hump in the title game against Ohio State, he did achieve every other goal. And in the process, he got his degree.
Mariota was not alone in declaring for the NFL Draft, as Florida State’s Jameis Winston is also skipping his final college season to turn pro. Mariota’s opponent in the title game, Cardale Jones, has decided to stay.
The high-ethics Mariota was a great foil for the oft-troubled Winston this season, and his skills at the QB position were lauded all season long. Mariota finished the year completing 304 of 445 passes for 4,454 yards and a 10.01 yards-per-pass average. He had 42 touchdowns against just 4 sacks, and his 5.7-yards-per-carry rushing average was only slightly more impressive than his 15 rushing TDs this season.
But with both Winston and Mariota declaring for the NFL Draft, the debate has begun to heat up about which QB will be a better long-term prospect and likely No. 1 pick. Whereas Mariota got all the mis-season love, Winston’s game is beginning to get more attention now that Mariota had an off game in the National Championship against Ohio State.
Regardless, Mariota ends his career at Oregon as one of the best players, QB or not, to don a Ducks uniform. And while fans will miss both his presence and performance, they’ll surely appreciate having a new NFL quarterback to root for who’s as solid off the field as he is on it.