Following a record-shattering career as one of the best quarterbacks in college football history, Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota says he is leaving the University of Oregon to enter the NFL draft.
The university confirmed he filed paperwork on Wednesday, one day before the NFL deadline.
“After meeting with my family I have decided to forego (sic) my final year of eligibility and apply for the 2015 NFL Draft,” Mariota said in a prepared statement. “My four years at the University of Oregon have been an awesome experience. I cannot thank Coach Kelly, Coach Helfrich, Coach Frost, the rest of the Oregon coaches and the support staff enough for molding me as a person, player and student-athlete.
“The support I received from the University, the city of Eugene and Duck fans has been tremendous. I will always remember the great times and support I received. Once a Duck always a Duck.
“I will miss being with my teammates. Being a part of this team was something special that I will always treasure.”
Mariota already graduated this past winter with a degree in general science. He completed all of his coursework in three and a half years.
The decision comes just two days after a disappointing loss. The Oregon Ducks lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes 42-20 in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship game Monday night.
But that didn’t detract from what many consider to be a season of the ages.
As the humble leader of Oregon’s high-flying offense, Mariota became the first player in NCAA history to clock 50 more touchdowns than turnovers in a single year.
He also won every major award he qualified for, including AP Player of the Year, Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and the just-announced 2015 Manning Award.
Now, Mariota will focus on draft preparation. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the top overall pick followed by the Tennessee Titans.
Mariota is projected by many to be selected within the top five picks of the draft, if not the top overall selection, which would include a payout of about $20 million.
KHON2 caught up with San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Teo on what it would take for Mariota to make the jump from the Duck pond to the shark tank.
“It’s all gonna be up to Marcus. You know Marcus, I told him the same thing when I talked to him when I was back at home. Regardless of what level you’re at, whether it be Pop Warner or high school, college or the pros, football is football,” Teo said. “What makes him special is what’s going to always make him special, regardless of what level he’s at, and he just has to find that confidence in himself. There’s a transition that you have to make from high school to college. That’s going to be a similar transition that’s he’s going to have to make from college to the NFL, and I have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to make that transition and he’s going to do well. He’s going to have a lot of success in the NFL.”
Teo compared Mariota to Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. “I remember playing against Andrew and I would hit Andrew and he’d be congratulating me on the play,” he said. “You see that on the film, Marcus does the same thing. He congratulates his opponents. You know, that just goes to show what type of character he has. He understands that football is a game that he loves to play, but it doesn’t define who he is.”
The NFL Scouting Combine runs from Feb. 20-23, with the draft to be held April 30-May 2.