If you are a Titans fan, consider yourself blessed. Sure, there have been many years of disappointing defeat but for those of you that stayed true, prepare to hold your head high once again. Win or lose, your Titans pride will be restored and you will absolutely fall in love with your new leader under center.
Let me be clear. The Marcus Mariota hype is real and it is absolutely warranted. This week, another writer tried to stifle that hype and “tap the breaks on” the Mariota bandwagon. Don’t do it. You have every reason to be excited about what’s about to happen in Tennessee and besides, Mariota will not be negatively affected by your adoration. He will appreciate it but will not feel too pressured by it. Simply put, he is way too humble for that.
As a beat writer in Eugene, I had the pleasure of covering Mariota during his years as a Duck and along the way became a student of both his play and his persona- so much so, it is nearly impossible for me to call him by his last name. Around here, he is “Marcus”, a cherished role model that everyone feels they know, even if they’ve never met him. Soon, Titans Fans, you will understand.
As you prepare to embrace your team’s newest star, there are a few things you should know. I preface this list by saying these are simply my very educated opinions based on years of talking to and watching Mariota as a player and person, both on and off the field. Do with it what you will.
1. He is not boring or “vanilla” as many have and will say. Mariota is smart. He knows how to answer questions and doesn’t spark controversy with his words. When he is off camera, Mariota is relaxed and gracious, but has no problem cracking a joke or making fun of a coaches’ dance moves or lack thereof. The key to getting him to open up is to ask him questions about anyone but himself. He lights up when talking about his teammates, golf, Hawaii and of course, his family, which brings us to the next point.
2. He is all about family. You can take the man out of Hawaii but can’t take Hawaii out of the man (is that a saying?). There is no doubt Mariota was raised with the “Ohana” spirit and everything he does is for his family. In fact, the base of his Heisman Trophy display at the University of Oregon is engraved simply with “Mom, Dad, Matt,” paying tribute to the three most important people in his life. While other players would be out celebrating a big win on the town, Mariota would have plans to head back to his apartment to eat pizza with his parents, uncles and grandmother. ESPN once mocked him for that while others, including myself, found it refreshing. It is that family that has kept Mariota grounded and helped move him move past some tough losses and on to bigger victories.
3. He is very competitive. He really is a nice guy, but that doesn’t mean Mariota doesn’t get fired up when he needs to. He can get very upset; it just takes a lot of taunting by another team and usually involves a loss. Like most, he absolutely hates losing and his entire demeanor will change when it happens. He will fight through it and politely answer questions after a losing a game but you will sense the boiling frustration and immediate need for redemption.
4. He starts nearly every game with a bit of jitters. Expect things to be slightly off with Mariota for the first couple of minutes of each game. The bandwagon fans will always start squawking, but real fans will understand and it won’t be long before he settles in and does well. . .what he does. Those nerves will quickly disappear and he embraces them. His father taught him it was okay to be nervous because it meant he was passionate about what he was doing.
5. Everyone will love him. From toddlers to grandmothers and everything in between, everyone will light up when saying his name and he will be the topic of conversation at dinner tables, bus stops, and school cafeterias. Mothers will want their daughters to marry him, strangers will unite in their adoration and those that meet him will always say, “He really is that nice.” He will be the type of role model all young athletes should look up to.
Prepare for Mariota Fever, Tennessee, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.