The NFL Network is in the midst of their annual countdown of the top 100 players of 2017, and Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota made his debut this year at number 50…ahead of players like Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, Philip Rivers, Jameis Winston, and yes…even Andrew Luck.
Two things immediately jumped out at me when I saw where Mariota was ranked…
- He is already considered one of the best players in the league (regardless of position) after just 27 career starts.
- This list was not compiled by the media. He was voted 50th by his peers, the people who play with and against him each and every week. That makes the selection and high-ranking even more of an honor.
On the surface it would appear that the former Heisman winner and second overall pick had everything handed to him on a silver platter…but that is far from the case.
In fact, Mariota had to prove himself at every level, dating back to his high school days.
Few remember that Mariota’s high school career consisted of holding a clipboard more than stockpiling eye-popping numbers. He had to prove himself. He had to wait his turn, and didn’t get a chance to start until his senior year.
But when he did get his chance he made the most of it…
In his lone year as starting quarterback Mariota led Saint Louis High School (Honolulu) to a state title while being named the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Offensive Player of the Year.
You would think that being regarded as one of, if not the best player in the state would lead to boxes of letters from colleges eager to bring him on campus.
But that didn’t happen, either. Only two schools offered Mariota a scholarship, Memphis and Oregon.
Mariota chose Oregon, of course, but he had to pay his dues there as well after being red shirted his freshman year. Once he got his chance at the collegiate level he never looked back…leading the Ducks to the National Championship game in 2014 while earning Oregon’s first Heisman Trophy.
After turning himself into one of the most decorated and celebrated collegiate players in the country, Mariota faced more doubt and criticism heading into the 2015 draft.
National pundits called Oregon’s spread option offense gimmicky and wondered aloud if the dual-threat qb could thrive in a traditional pro style offense…something that Jameis Winston, Mariota’s counterpart, was praised for coming out of Florida State.
Being selected by the Titans, who was at the time one of the worst franchises in all of football, certainly didn’t help. Mariota was now in a wasteland, where high draft picks turn into anonymous afterthoughts.
Or so they thought….
Mariota’s historical debut as the Titans’ rookie signal caller (first player to throw 4 first half tds in his first start) proved that he was capable of playing from under center. And from there his confidence took off…and the team’s fortune along with it.
Tennessee’s record has improved in each of Mariota’s first two seasons, narrowly missing the playoffs last year after a tie breaker cost the Titans the AFC South title.
Mariota has made a career out of proving himself while proving people wrong, and the timing couldn’t be better for his next conquest….recovering from a broken fibula to lead the Titans back to the playoffs after a nine-year drought.
Be encouraged Titans fans, because Mariota shines brightest when he has something to prove.