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Oregon's Marcus Mariota At Sun Devil Stadium via

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota At Sun Devil Stadium via

In the long shadow of Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium, the great Oregon quarterback’s name echoes off the mountainside.

After the win over UCLA on Saturday afternoon, the fans I found cheered longer than most.

These were special fans. They knew sports inside and out. They play, they watch, and they know what it means to feel special.

While they leave the Hyatt Hotel each morning in uniform, the players from the 808 Baseball Academy in Waipahu, Hawaii are football guys.

After their games in the Pacific Coast Baseball Prospects’ Underclass National Championships, they hit the pool and throw the other ball.

The kids didn’t see the Ducks and Bruins smash each other in the Rose Bowl. They were too busy playing teams from Washington, Nevada, California, and New Mexico, along with Arizona.

If it means something to travel for sports, it must be huge to fly from Hawaii to Arizona for baseball, especially for the high school juniors showcasing their skills for college scouts. Playing on the perfect fields of the Chicago Cubs spring training complex ┬ácan’t hurt, ether.

It had to feel the same when Mariota made his football camp trips to the UO facilities. Working out on the best fields in the country can only help bring out the best if it’s in there to begin with.

Watching the thrill of sports in young athletes is rewarding enough; being able to point to Marcus Mariota as a role model for impressionable youth even better.

Every mention of Mariota the Heisman Trophy Candidate, or hearing Mariota called the best college football player in the nation, is a shot in the arm for Oregon fans. What’s it mean to his fellow Hawaiians?

He’s golden because of the way he handles his business. No weed arrests, no cocaine rehab or stolen laptops which are part of the Ducks’ past.

More important there’s no rape allegations, suspensions for delivering popular profanities from a student union table top, and no university investigations. Also no questions of paying or not for crab legs.

College football fans know who has the whole menu. Florida State’s Jameis Winston scores on all counts.

You could tell kids about Winston, about his running and throwing and his team. After that it gets murky. Tell kids about Mariota and you can go on and on.

The Hawaiian baseball players didn’t need anyone explaining the Duck.

Can you name your favorite college player?

“The Oregon quarterback, Marcus Mariota.”

Do you follow any other college players?

“No. But the UCLA quarterback, Hundley, looks good.”

Yes he does, just not good enough to help his team get over. When you guys play catch, which one is Mariota?

“None of us.”

You don’t take turns being Mariota? Who’s the best football player from Hawaii?


Okay. Maybe you guys are too old for this. You’re freshmen?

“He is. I’m a sophomore and he’s a junior.”

Out of the three of you, try this next time you’re home with a football playing catch with a friend. Tell them you’re Mariota until you make a bad pass. Then it’s their turn.

“I don’t think so. We just play catch.”

So add a game situation and be a great player. It’s more fun. When I grew up the man was either Bart Starr or Johnny Unitas.

“Who are they?”

Football players.

“You couldn’t be just you?”

I was a lineman. Never saw the ball, never caught the ball. Never touched the ball unless it was fumbled. Being a quarterback in the yard was as close to that glory as any lineman gets.

“We’re baseball players. It doesn’t work the same.”

Try this: you’re Mariota. This guy is a receiver. The other guys is a defensive back. Next time you get in the pool throw the ball to your receiver and see if the D back can knock it down.

“Sounds fun.”

You’ve never done this?

“We’ll try it now.”

They jumped in the water. Two of them moved to middle. The one with the ball fired it in there.

I got in the act and a ball clanked off my hands and hit a lady behind me.

Using my best Mariota, I apologized and the game ended.

The best part? None of them said, “Now we see why you were a lineman.”

They were great kids.








About David Gillaspie
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