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Marcus Mariota and Mentality

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Marcus Mariota has the physical tools and skills to be the best in college football. It's the mental side, as with all things at the highest levels, that will set him apart from his peers and bring his team a championship.

Steve Dykes

Marcus Mariota is entering his final year as an Oregon Duck.  By the time this year ends he will probably be one of the best Duck football players ever.  I could list his stats for you but the stats alone don't encapsulate what Marcus Mariota brings to the field.  This year will provide new challenges to Mariota that he hasn't experienced before that will push him to the limits while also pushing the limits of what one football player can do in a game.

We all know that Marcus Mariota is fast.  We've seen him turn corners against defensive backs and streak up field for touchdowns.  He's dropped deep balls thirty yards downfield over the top of defenders and safely into the hands of wide receivers and he's threaded the needle while on the run when hitting receivers on post patterns.  Mariota has the athletic abilities, the skills, and the mentality to be a star.

This year for Oregon is going to ask a lot.  With a young group of receivers Mariota is going to be leaned on to pick apart defenses and be a teacher to many.  He's going to be a dangerous part of the running game and teams will have to game plan for him.  We are going to see just how much one player can impact a game.  Can Mariota single-handedly take a team and put him on his back?  Can a single person carry an entire team with him if they're struggling in what has been characterized as the ultimate team sport?

Largely, the success and heights reached by those at the highest level are because of their mental strength and endurance.  The higher one gets in academia or the workplace everyone tends to have similar levels of abilities.  It's the individuals who can dedicate themselves to succeeding, who can analyze situations and make the best decisions, and who can identify what needs to be done and what it will take for them to get it done, who end up at the peak of their chosen path.

When Mariota was first starting there would be cuts to him on the sideline after a touchdown drive and he'd be sitting by himself.  I distinctly remember watching a game where he ran through a couple people for a touchdown and when he went to the bench he sat by himself and just kicked it.  As an introvert, I totally know how this goes.  The archetypical super-quarterback though doesn't act like an introvert.  People look to them for guidance and encouragement.

Rob Moseley wrote in a practice report that Mariota got on the offense for a lack-luster start to practice.  As an outsider to the program, this appeared to be a huge step in the right direction for Mariota.  Mariota is dedicated in the classroom and on the field so no doubt everyone looks up to him at times and no one will rebuff any criticism he gives.  There's a fine line between being a dick, like Michael Jordan was to teammates, or being positive while still being critical.

True champions have the mental side of the game down.  The mental aspect of the game isn't limited to gameday though.  The mentality is applied to every part of preparation.  Anyone can get up for a game.  The championship teams are the ones who take advantage of every practice.  It's up to players like Mariota who are leaders and exemplary individuals to bring everyone up with them.  The best players make everyone else around them better.

Mariota is an impressive player, and from what I've heard from people who have spent time around him, an even better person.  (And I rarely comment on what athletes are like off the field unless I hear the same comments repeatedly)  I'm incredibly excited this year to watch one of the greatest players in college football and Oregon history ball so hard.  How much can one man do for a football team?  What are the limits of an individual in a team structure?  I have the feeling that we will have a new understanding of the smaller parts of football after this season.  What will push Mariota over the level to champion and greatest of all time levels is the mental side of the sport.  Just having the mental side doesn't guarantee a championship, but you can't win a championship without the mentality of a champion.