For those of you who know Marcus Mariota, you know that he is very close to his family.
The Hawaiian native chose the University of Oregon for his athletic and academic career “because it felt like home.” It is exactly 2,528 miles from Honolulu, Hawaii to Eugene, Oregon.
Fast forward four years, three bowl wins, a National Championship appearance and a Heisman Trophy winner later, and Mariota heard his named No. 2 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft to the Tennessee Titans.
A dream come true for the Fly’n Hawaiian.
But, that put more miles between him and his family-- 4,331 miles to be exact.
It was a long, strenuous five-year start to Mariota's career in Tennessee. Call it a bad fit or coaching inconsistency, thrown to the wolves too soon, but many Duck fans didn’t think the Titans fully let the Heisman winner blossom.
On March 17th, Mariota signed with the Las Vegas Raiders and committed to join coach Jon Gruden in NFL Free Agency. The contract was a two-year deal worth $17.6 million.
In an interview with Hawaii news outlet KHON2 reporter Rob DeMello, Mariota expressed his excitement for this new beginning.
Words can’t even express how excited, how happy we are as a family. These last five years have been a blessing, no doubt. I think Nashville has treated us very well, but this is a great opportunity for us as. It’s an opportunity to be closer to home and also to be a part of a great organization. — Marcus Mariota
So why the Las Vegas Raiders? Turns out Mariota and Gruden have had prior engagements before Mariota was in the NFL, as a student on Gruden’s QB Camp show. The two studied plays, ran drills and created a friendship. Now he’ll be playing under Gruden, this time in brand new stadium and in front of one of the rowdiness fan bases in the NFL.
I had two priorities that I had while I was going through this free agency process. Number one was to find stability. I wanted to be a part of an organization that had a stable head coach, that had stability in the front office, and secondly for me, I wanted to be a part of a coaching staff that could bring out the best in me. That could embrace my talents and kind of put my best foot forward. — Marcus Mariota
Mariota joins Derek Carr on the quarterback roster and will have to compete for that starting spot. For Mariota, this isn’t an issue. Competing is in his nature. He knew committing to Oregon also meant committing to competition against a player named Johnny Manziel, who Oregon also offered a scholarship to back before their college careers began.
He understands that the Raiders are Carr’s team as he’s been the starter for six years now and responds to it in the most Mariota way possible:
First and foremost, this is Derek’s team, and I understand that. I understand that going in. I’m going to do my best to support Derek in every possible way that I can and along with that I’m just going to try to become the best player that I can be and see where that takes me. — Marcus Mariota
This duo should be an interesting storyline to follow all season long. Carr is notably on the “hot seat” as he has only posted a 39-55 career record as a starter. Granted, it’s not all on the quarterback but it is the single most important position on the football field. And with a new location, new stadium, and new quarterback in the room, the pressure is on.
‘It’s been almost ten years since I played at home, this is as close as it gets’, #Hawaii’s Marcus Mariota ‘excited’ to sign with #LasVegas #Raiders https://t.co/O7B6TkeMAt @StLouisHawaii #NFLHawaii #9thIsland // https://t.co/9oZimTtTXJ 🤙🏽 pic.twitter.com/xBHLaAUMFy— Rob DeMello (@RobDeMelloKHON) March 25, 2020