Home is where the heart is… or it could simply be where you come from.
For heavy Heisman Trophy favorite Marcus Mariota, home is Honolulu, Hawaii.
The finalists for the Heisman Trophy Award were announced on Monday: Mariota, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. The trio’s trip to New York came as no surprise. There will also be no shocks in store for college football watchers if Mariota takes home the hardware on Saturday night. Drama is not supposed to be a part of the evening.
What’s the significance of this Heisman winner? Mariota would mark only the fourth Heisman Trophy winner born outside the contiguous 48 states of the United States. California has the most winners, with 14. Ohio is next with 10, while Texas and Pennsylvania follow with seven each. Only 25 different states boast of a winner. Mariota would make that number 26.
Tim Tebow was born in the Philipines on a mission. Robert Griffin III was born in Japan to military parents. Finally, Frank Sinkwich — the 1942 winner at the University of Georgia — was born in Croatia. However, there is one difference between Mariota and the other three: where they played high school football.
While at St. Louis High School in Honolulu, Mariota was a two-sport star in football and track. However, Mariota did not start on the football field until his senior year, a campaign in which he led his squad to an 11-1 record and was named the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Offensive Player of the Year. In that season, Mariota had a very similar season to what he had at Oregon this year. He completed almost 65 percent of his passes for nearly 2,600 yards and 32 touchdowns against five interceptions. He also rushed for 455 yards and seven touchdowns.
Mariota was discovered by the Ducks when he attended an Oregon football summer camp prior to that senior season. Had this not happened, the fairytale of Mariota winning the Heisman and a possible national championship would have never been possible. With all of the scheduling and timing struggles that come with recruiting for coaches, it’s hard to imagine making the trek to Hawaii to see a relatively unknown commodity under other circumstances. However, the difference that Mariota has made at Oregon could open up a new, fairly untapped pipeline for collegiate talent.
While many players are annually recruited from the islands, it is rare that you find one of the nation’s elite coming from Hawaii — forget a Heisman favorite. Not only would Mariota be the first winner from the University of Oregon, he would give an entire generation of athletes from Hawaii proof that achievements like these are possible.
This is not to say or suggest that Hawaii is the future hotbed of football talent, competing with Texas and Florida. However, it’s clear that Mariota has certainly put the Aloha state on the map. Hawaii boasts of only three of the top 60 prospects on the ESPN top recruits list in 2015.
When booking those recruiting trips, coaches, don’t forget Hawaii… and that’s for a lot more than just a vacation.