The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner and second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Marcus Mariota is one of the most decorated players in recent football history.
In high school he didn’t become the starting quarterback until his senior year at St. Louis High in Honolulu, Hawaii. As a relatively unheralded prospect, he arrived at Oregon and changed the course of an already surging national powerhouse.
Read more to find out how Mariota, now with the Tennessee Titans– embodies the Knight athlete type and mindset:
The three words used most to describe a Knight athlete are: listens, respect, and values. There may not be an athlete who embodies these characteristics more than Tennessee Titan quarterback, Marcus Mariota.
A model teammate and leader on and off the field, the legend of Mariota’s values and leadership style has continued to grow in Tennessee and throughout the NFL.
“We’ll do anything for Marcus,” center Ben Jones said in a Bleacher Report feature about his quarterback.
It’s a sentiment felt by many of Mariota’s teammates, due to the respect he puts forth when he approaches them on the practice field and beyond.
“He goes out with us and he doesn’t drink, but he’s one of the boys,” offensive tackle Taylor Lewan says. “He doesn’t act like he’s above us. He’s not on a high horse. That’s awesome. I’m never going to pass judgment. It’s the perfect yin and yang between us.”
According to the Bleacher Report story from Dan Pompei, Mariota values the details, and he expects that from his teammates as well. When those values aren’t held to the standards he wants them to be, he holds his teammates accountable, a trait common amongst Knights:
“Mariota is detailed, and he expects no less from his receivers. When one of them runs a sloppy route, they hear about it. ‘He will get on you if you aren’t doing what you are supposed to do,’ Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews says. ‘But he does it in a respectful manner.’”
That last bit from Matthews speaks to a couple of Mariota’s characteristics as a Knight. He obviously feels strongly about the details between the receiver and quarterback– likely tied to his value system as an NFL quarterback– but he approaches his teammates respect when confronting them on these mistakes.
“There is a mindset you have to have when you get out there on Sunday,” Mariota says. “Guys understand it’s out of love. It’s not something where I’m trying to embarrass them. It’s trying to get them to be the best they can be.”
That’s the way Mariota approaches his leadership role within the Tennessee Titans organization, something he takes very seriously. His teammates are important to him, and like close friends and family he’s willing to protect them.
Center Ben Jones, quoted in a 2017 Ringer piece by Kevin Clark, it doesn’t matter who the teammate is– he’ll go out of his way to help them in whatever way he can.
“Last year, there was a rookie who didn’t have a car,” Jones said. “Marcus found out and he’d drive the rookie back and forth. Even after games, we’d land late at night, he’d go 30 minutes out of his way.”
Jones goes on to mention that this unnamed rookie didn’t even end up making the team– showing it doesn’t matter who you are to Mariota, if you’re on the team– you’re a part of his family.
“Whether it’s developing a relationship, learning what someone likes or doesn’t like, putting forth the extra effort so guys understand you do what you preach. The best leaders adapt and are flexible with their situations. I try to be the same,” Mariota says.
“Mariota won’t tell you these stories, but everyone else will. Like the time he drove three hours to fix a teammate’s car,” Kevin Clark mentions in his story, “How he always makes the bed—even when he’s staying at a hotel. And the way he neatly puts cafeteria items away for other teammates—and guilts them into doing the same.”
It all seems almost too good to be true.
“I think it comes down to ‘be yourself,’” Mariota said. “Guys will respect that. Guys will gravitate towards that. I don’t want to be something that I’m not. Guys tend to pick up on that quickly.”
So where does this set of values come from? What would drive Mariota to becoming the person he is today?
If you ask him, it’s simple: his native land of Hawaii.
“Football is a big part of Hawaii,” Mariota says in this video from the NFL. “Ohana means family. It’s always we before I, you learn at a young age that anything you do that is successful or negative– it’s going to represent the entire community and you want to make sure that you represent that in the right light.”
These are ideals Mariota discusses all of the time, and the words ring true to one of the major building blocks of the Knight mindset: Knights are protective of their close friends and family.
“For me, Ohana and family, you can take that wherever you go,” Mariota mentions. His ability to stay humble he says, also comes from his culture and family growing up. “My family, you know where I come from, growing up one of the core values I learned was humility. When one makes it, everyone makes it. So when you have success, remember it took other people to get you there.”
Always conscious of how his personal image can reflect on his teammates, family, and his beloved home in Hawaii, Mariota is protective of all of these things he holds dear.
He respects his parents, as well as his teammates and coaches, and all of the people from Hawaii who helped him grow and develop into the man he is today.
With the value system instilled in him from his time on the islands growing up, Mariota will continue to have this Knight mindset throughout the rest of his career and life.
“I would say that’s probably the focal point of my leadership,” Mariota says. “Our culture is all about we, never about yourself. I always try to make it a point when I’m talking to guys to say we. It’s not you need to do this, it’s what can we do better. It makes it more of a family culture.”