Hawaii’s Marcus Mariota has won the Heisman Trophy.
Considered college football’s most prestigious individual honor, Mariota, the St. Louis School graduate and University of Oregon quarterback, was considered the front-runner to win the Heisman going into Saturday’s 80th award ceremony in New York City.
Mariota beat out his fellow junior class finalists, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. Twelve of the last 14 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks.
During his emotional acceptance speech, Mariota thanked his teammates, his coaches and teachers, the university, the community of Eugene, Oregon, and Duck fans everywhere.
“To the men of Kalaepohaku and the Saint Louis brotherhood, thank you for teaching me to be always mindful and faithful … to Hawaii Nei, thank you for teaching me humility and respect.
“Two aspects of my life that will never change,” he said. “To the Polynesian community, I hope and pray this is only the beginning. Young (Polynesians and Samoans) everywhere, you should take this as motivation and dream big and strive to greatness.”
In the audience were Mariota’s parents Toa and Alana, and his high school quarterback coach Vince Passas.
“Finally, Mom and Dad and Matt and the rest of my family, thank you. Thank you for sacrificing and providing me and Matt every opportunity (we’ve) ever had. Words cannot express how much you mean to me. I’m truly grateful to have you guys in my life.
“Fa’afetai tele lava. God bless. Go Ducks,” Mariota said.
There have been three previous finalists for the Heisman with Hawaii ties — Herman Wedemeyer, Colt Brennan and Manti Te’o — but Mariota is the first to win the trophy.
It’s been a whirlwind week for Mariota leading up to the Heisman ceremony. On Tuesday in Honolulu, Mariota was named the inaugural Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Player of the Year.
Then on Thursday, he collected the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp awards that honors college football’s best player and quarterback of the year.
Friday, he accepted the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, one that values character and integrity.
Now, after Saturday, Mariota can finally concentrate on preparing to lead his Pac-12 champion Ducks to their showdown with Florida State Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl.
As one of four teams in this year’s debut College Football Playoff, the Rose Bowl winner will meet the winner of the Alabama-Ohio State, also Jan. 1, at the Sugar Bowl. The national championship game will be held Jan. 12 at the home stadium of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas.
And Mariota could very well win another award after the championship game. The Manning Award — named in honor of the family of top-notch quarterbacks Archie, Peyton and Eli — will be given to the quarterback who has performed the best in a bowl game.
Regardless of the outcome, Mariota will hopefully return home in time to receive the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Player of the Year Award at a celebration dinner on Jan. 23.