It’s not like 2014 Manning Award winner Marcus Mariota of Oregon is a stranger to the family for whom the honor that goes to the nation’s top college quarterback is named.
For the past three years Mariota was one of the counselors at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux where he not only worked with the youngsters who attend but got to know many of the nation’s other top quarterbacks, including 2013 winner and fellow Heisman Trophy recipient Jameis Winston of Florida State.
“I had a great experience at the Manning Camp,” Mariota said Friday, two days after announcing he would forego his senior season to enter the NFL draft. “It was awesome working with the kids.
“You felt like you were part of a great team and part of a great family.”
Mariota’s final collegiate season ended in disappointment Monday with the Ducks’ 42-20 loss to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff championship game.
But even though the Manning Award, sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl, takes into account a quarterback’s bowl performance, it did little to diminish Mariota’s accomplishments.
He set Pac-12 records for total touchdowns (58) and total offense (5,224 yards) this season while becoming the first quarterback in FCS history to have a 50-plus TD to interception ratio.
In the title game Mariota threw for 333 yards and two TDs. He had 338 yards passing with two scores in the Ducks’ 59-20 Rose Bowl victory against Winston and Florida State in the semifinals.
In his career, Mariota led the Ducks to a 36-5 record and set an NCAA record by having at least one touchdown pass in all of his starts.
“It’s been so much fun watching Marcus grow as a quarterback,” Archie Manning said. “You have to be proud of the way he has conducted himself off the field and for his accomplishments on it.
“He was kind of quiet and reserved when he first came to our camp, but he’s blossomed there, too. I don’t think we’ve had a finer person win this award.”
Mariota said he is in San Diego beginning training for the draft.
Most projections have him as the No. 1 pick in the draft. That spot belongs to Tampa Bay, but there are reports that Chip Kelly, Mariota’s old coach at Oregon, is pushing for the Philadelphia Eagles to trade up for the opportunity to take him.
“I’m not too concerned about if I’m the No. 1 pick or not,” Mariota said. “The main thing is going to where I fit best.”
Mariota is the 11th winner of the Manning Award and the seventh to have played in the national championship game.
He is the first from the Pac 12 since Matt Leinart of Southern California, the award’s inaugural winner in 2004.
Along with Mariota, this year’s other Manning Award finalists were J.T. Barrett of Ohio State, Trevone Boykin of TCU, Rakeem Cato of Marshall, Garrett Grayson of Colorado State, Brett Hundley of UCLA, Cody Kessler of USC, Bryce Petty of Baylor, Dak Prescott of Mississippi State, Blake Sims of Alabama and Winston.
Mariota will be presented his award at a luncheon in New Orleans at a future date.