Mariota was an inspiration in his home state [Hawaii]. He further validated the Oregon football program. And he has become viewed as the N.C.A.A.’s ideal student-athlete, especially after character issues in part defined the previous two Heisman winners, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel.
Mariota has garnered attention for his more positive off-field activities. He volunteers at the Boys & Girls Club in Eugene, Ore. He graduated early with a degree in general science. He tutored his teammates in high school.
“He’s always had a different mind-set than everyone else,” Taylor Troy, a close friend of Mariota’s, said by telephone last week. They played football together in Pop Warner and high school.
He added: “He always had his priorities in the right order. Around here, your priorities can sometimes get turned the wrong way. But he stuck to it. Stuck to football. Stuck to school. Stuck to his family. He’s just never gone off track. That’s why he’s so great.”
What a relief to see someone truly deserving win a major sports award. It’s about time we start sending the message that life off the field or off the court DOES matter. Perhaps if we start rewarding the good guys and ignoring the trouble makers at the lower levels of sports, we won’t have such big problems with professional athletes.