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College Football: Mariota runs away with Heisman Trophy

By Larry Fleisher Sports Xchange NEW YORK -- In Hawaii, "Ohana" means family. After becoming the first Hawaiian to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota made sure to focus on that concept. The soft-spok...

By Larry Fleisher

Sports Xchange

NEW YORK - In Hawaii, "Ohana" means family.

After becoming the first Hawaiian to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota made sure to focus on that concept.

The soft-spoken Mariota credited his family and friends in his native Hawaii that watched him develop into a high school quarterback who did not start until his senior season and also cited his teammates that helped him make history on Saturday night.

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"Ohana means family," Mariota said in his press conference at the Marriott Marquis. "That's it right there. In Hawaii, if one person is successful, then the entire state is successful. To be a part of that, it's something special."

It seemed like many Hawaiians were outside on Broadway and West 45th Street as Mariota walked from the Best Buy Theater to the hotel. Many teachers from St. Louis High School in Honolulu made the trip and provided him Hawaiian and Samoan leis that he wore at the press conference.

"That's a huge part of who he is and in a lot of ways it's the basis for all of what he is," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "His family, his culture, proud people, a very loyal people, hard-working. All the things that he's exposed about himself comes from that background. It was a great tribute of the culture."

Mariota said, "For them to come here and give me so many leis, that's special. It meant a lot that they were here to support me."

Not only did Mariota become the first Ducks player to win the award, he also won in one of the most lopsided votes in the 80-year history.

Mariota accumulated 2,534 points, which was the third most in Heisman history behind Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in 2006 and Texas running back Ricky Williams in 1998.

"I am honored to be standing here," Mariota said immediately after winning the award. "This award belong to my teammates. The amount of sacrifice they have made is not unnoticed."

Mariota received 90.9 percent of the votes, second only to Smith in 2006. He also became the fifth straight quarterback and the 32nd player at that position to win the award.

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"It's hard to not get emotional because it's been a long journey," Mariota said. "For all those people to help me out and to support me and believe in me just means the world."

Saturday also was the culmination of a journey that started when Helfrich, then an assistant to coach Chip Kelly, first noticed Mariota on film while recruiting a wide receiver from the same school.

"The first throw that I remember is he threw a flag route, a corner route, and his body language, his mannerisms," Helfich said before the ceremony. "It reminded me a ton of Jake Plummer on film. He threw this kind of flattened-out corner route and that was the first one that kind of perked you up in your chair."

The multitalented junior completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 3,783 yards while throwing for 38 touchdowns and only two interceptions this season as Oregon went 12-1.

Mariota also ran for 14 touchdowns while compiling 669 rushing yards on 117 carries, helping the Ducks to No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings and a meeting with No. 3 Florida State on Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl in a playoff semifinal that will pit him against 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston.

After redshirting in 2011, Mariota won 35 of 39 games and has thrown 101 touchdown passes and only 12 interceptions while accumulating 10,125 passing yards. He is expected to be the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft if he forgos his senior season.

Mariota also became the first Heisman winner from a Pac-12 school since USC running back Reggie Bush won in 2005 before forfeiting the award. He also was the first player from a Pac-12 school other than USC to win since Stanford's Jim Plunkett in 1970.

Saturday completed a sweep of major awards for Mariota. He won the Maxwell Award as college football's most outstanding player after getting the Walter Camp Foundation Player of the Year and the Davey O'Brien Award for being the nation's best quarterback.

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That meant a fourth speech for the reserved Mariota, who wrote down his comments on paper to avoid forgetting anybody.

"It's tough," Mariota said. "This is something you dream of as a little kid. To stand up on a podium and try to make a speech after all that is tough because you're feeling you're so excited. That's why I had emotions."

Gordon, recipient of the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top runner, received 1,250 points, highlighted by 432 second-place votes. Gordon has rushed for 2,336 yards this season - the fourth-best season total in FBS history and leads the nation in average rushing yards at 179.7 per game.

Gordon was bidding to be the Badgers' first Heisman winner since running back Ron Dayne in 1999 and trying to join Alan Ameche as the third winner in school history.

Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper, who won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver, finished with 1,023 points. He was the first member of the Crimson Tide to win that award after leading the nation with 115 receptions and 1,656 receiving yards.

Had Cooper won, he would have joined running back Mark Ingram Jr. (2009) as the second Alabama player to claim the award. He also would have been the first wide receiver to win since Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991.

Winston finished sixth with 51 total points.

 

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