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The View Of Oregon From The East

Oregon Trail via

Oregon Trail via

“West of the Mississippi.”

The words could describe another planet, an alien land to our Eastern brothers and sisters who couldn’t find Oregon if you dropped them off on Vancouver’s Waterfront Renaissance Trail and pointed across the Columbia River.

Dear Eastie, that’s not California over there.

Oregon State’s Terry Baker won the first Heisman awarded a player west of the Mississippi. You’ve got to wonder how he got the message.

Was it tied to a pigeon’s leg? Smoke signals? Pony Express?

We’re talking nineteen sixty two. It had to be high tech messaging. Morse Code?

Marcus Mariota will learn of his Heisman the old fashioned way. He’ll get a text naming him the first Heisman winner west of the Willamette, not a note clipped to the fin of a migrating salmon.

What sort of club is Mariota joining?

Four Heisman Members from the west coast:

1. Mike Garrett, USC

After winning the biggest prize in college football, Garrett joined the JV professional football league known as the AFL. How good could he be if he didn’t play with the best? We found out he was pretty good when his Kansas City Chiefs played in the first Super Bowl and lost, then the fourth Super Bowl and won.

Garrett is a good citizen. He’s no O. J. Simpson. He hasn’t murdered or robbed anyone, though he did get a law degree.

2. Gary Beban, UCLA

Like the sharp Mariota, Beban starred in the classroom and grid iron. Also like Mariota, he played three seasons of stellar ball for the powerful Bruins.

He finished his professional career the year after he began with a touchdown to interception ration of 0-0 with 0 yards, yet somehow had a quarterback rating of more than zero.

Another good citizen who neither murdered or robbed, he was no O. J. Simpson either. He went to work for a global real estate company, eventually rising to president and general manager. Call him a world class businessman who Mariota ought to know more about.

3. O. J. Simpson, USC

By now it was sinking in: Heisman Trophy winners west of the Mississippi come from California. Terry Baker got it because the east coast cartographers mistook Oregon for Northern California.

O. J. is not a good citizen. He did murder and rob. All of his football accomplishments pale in comparison. He turned into the anti-Beban.

Prisoner Simpson is no one’s role model. Marcus, ignore O. J.

4. Jim Plunkett, Stanford

The Mariota of his day, Plunkett set records at Stanford one year and broke them the next. A community guy, Plunkett stayed in school instead of going pro after his junior year to show kids he mentored he was as good as his word.

A can’t miss draft pick, he went #1 overall in 1971 to the then Boston Patriots. His pro career endured the sort of ups and downs that would break an ordinary man, but Plunkett stuck around long enough to be extraordinary.

After his trade to the San Francisco 49ers, who released him two years later, Plunkett sat on the bench with the Oakland Raiders. For another two years he stayed ready.

His chance came when the starter broke a leg and Plunkett took the Raiders through the rest of the 1980 season to a Super Bowl win, finishing with an MVP trophy.

Three years later he was on the bench again when the starter got hurt. All he did was take the Raiders to another Super Bowl win.

If greatness is judged by the number of Super Bowl rings, Jim Plunkett is a good choice to help Mariota see the peaks and valleys ahead of him.

Looking to the near future, I see a PAC12 title, a Heisman, and a national championship followed by the sort of professional career reserved for the good guys of sports.

Call it the Marcus Mariota Club.


About David Gillaspie
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