As he enters the next phase of his NFL career, Saint Louis alumnus Marcus Mariota is grateful to still be an active part of the league.

Mariota signed with the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles on Wednesday, where he’ll enter as the backup to quarterback Jalen Hurts, a rising star. Mariota understands his role entering the organization will be a departure from his signing with the Atlanta Falcons nearly a year ago, where he was expected to be a starter and did so for 13 games.

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“To continue a lifelong dream is such a blessing and I’m very excited to be a part of this team. I’m looking forward to helping in any way that I can,” Mariota told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “Jalen’s coming off an incredible year. To be a part of that room and hopefully help him get better and the team better is something I think is a really cool opportunity. A little far from home, but you know what, I’ve got an unbelievable family, unbelievable support system. It’s fun to be able to go to these different cities and just learn more about the world and kind of get ourselves involved with the community.”

Despite being new to the Eagles in an officially capacity, there is some history that exists between Mariota and Philadelphia.

When Mariota declared for the 2015 NFL Draft, the Eagles were one of the teams rumored to be coveting him. At the time, they were coached by Chip Kelly, Mariota’s former coach at Oregon.

With Mariota’s presence on Philadelphia’s roster a reality and no longer speculation, he says he’s looking forward to reuniting with some of the names he’s built relationships in the past.

“I’ve heard so many good things, top down,” Mariota says of the Eagles organization. “I’ve heard from a lot of guys I’ve played with just how first class of an organization it is, how much they care about the players, how much they want to do right by the players. I was really drawn by the coaching staff on offense.

“You play this game long enough, it’s funny because guys I’ve played with now are now coaches on that staff. (Special teams coordinator) Mike Clay, I’ve played with him at Oregon. Alex Tanney who I played with in Tennessee is now the quarterback coach. Jason Michael, a guy that also coached me at Tennessee. … There’s always relationships in the NFL. A lot of times, you end up with people you know, people that kind of align the way that you align and it’s fun that I get a chance to be a part of a group like this and I’m gonna do whatever I can to help this team win.”

Mariota joins an Eagles squad that went 14-3 in 2022 and earned the NFC’s top seed due in part to the play of Hurts, who appeared to be a legitimate MVP candidate before missing three games near the end of the regular season due to a shoulder injury. Hurts returned in time to lead the Eagles to an appearance in the Super Bowl, where they were edged 38-35 to the Kansas City Chiefs.

With an established starter in place in Philadelphia, Mariota understands that this time around, he’s signing to be a backup. He wants to be the best one that he can be for the Eagles.

“I’ve been a part of a lot of teams now and when it comes down to it, I think when you have a strong quarterback room that really supports one another, it really kind of breathes life into the rest of the team,” Mariota said. “It was really cool, Jalen reached out to me right after we had agreed. I told him, ‘Look, man, I’m here for you. I’m here to make you better.’ The experiences that I’ve gone through, the amount of football that I’ve played, hopefully I can just pass on a little nugget here or there that he can use to make himself a better player and just doing whatever I can.

“If I’m called to do a few different game plan stuff here and there or give a look to the defense, man, I’m willing to do it. At the end of the day, I’ve had so many different experiences in my career that I just want to have fun and enjoy the game and do it with people that I respect and people that are just good people.”