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Marcus Mariota granted exception to enter NFL Draft, will not return to Oregon

In a move that sent shockwaves through Eugene, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota announced via Twitter that he was granted an exception to enter the NFL Draft and will not return to the Ducks next fall.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

After turning down potentially millions of guaranteed dollars by choosing to come back to the University of Oregon over the NFL Draft, it appears as if Marcus Mariota has had a change of heart. In an unprecedented move, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will allow Mariota to enter the draft after all. The move has left the Ducks scrambling to find a starting quarterback for next fall.

"It was a tough decision, but I have to do what's best for my future," said Mariota. "After discussing the options with my family, we have decided that taking my talents to the NFL is the right thing to do."

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft was January 15, but after Mariota completed the process of filing a petition with the league, Goodell allowed the move. He cited Mariota's personality as a primary reason for allowing the exception.

"He's the type of kid this league needs," said Goodell. "I mean, I'm going to have to put up with the antics of that Manziel punk all year, so I have no doubt he'll be a breath of fresh air."

Mariota reestablishes himself as a first-round lock, with many projecting the quarterback to go to the Houstan Texans, who hold the top overall pick. Earlier this spring, no one was quite sure what the Texans were going to do with the top overall pick. Unlike other years, there was no clear projection for who would go first overall. Rumors even started to circulate that the Texans would look to trade the top pick. Now, it seems as if that cloud of doubt has lifted.

"We are not announcing anything official just yet," said Texans general manager Rick Smith. "However, we will say that our path in this draft is much clearer now. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens this next month."

Mariota leaves Oregon as one of the most successful quarterbacks in school history. In his two years with the Ducks, Mariota threw for 6,342 yards with 63 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. He was even a Heisman favorite last season until the Ducks stumbled with yet another BCS berth in their sights.

To no surprise, Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich is none too pleased about the decision.

"I really expected more from him than a low blow like this," said Helfrich. "It's selfish. He's abandoning his team for money. I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed."

The focus now shifts to sophomores Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues. We should be treated to another entertaining spring as the two battle it out to become Oregon's next starting quarterback. Neither had much of a chance to showcase their talents last year as Mariota proved he was more machine than man.

When asked how the team was going to cope with the news, Helfrich provided one quick answer before storming out of the morning's press conference.

"We're going to go check the calendar and note what day it is."