POSTED: 12:51 p.m. HST, Dec 3, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 1:42 a.m. HST, Dec 4, 2013
Saying money "can't buy the amount of memories or experience I have here," All-Pac-12 quarterback Marcus Mariota said Tuesday he will return to the University of Oregon for his junior year, forsaking a likely lucrative place in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Mariota, a Saint Louis School graduate and redshirt sophomore at Oregon, would have been eligible to pursue the NFL Draft since he redshirted his first year for the Ducks.
NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. had listred Mariota as a projected "top five" pick in the first round and forecast him as the second quarterback that could be taken.
Mariota said the decision to bypass putting his name in for the NFL draft was "tough but wasn't as hard as people may think it was."
He had been considered the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy this year until a knee injury and losses to Stanford and Arizona hurt his candidacy.
Mariota said he expects to graduate in 2014 with a degree in general sciences.
"It is an honor to be a student at the University of Oregon and to have the opportunity to represent our institution on the football field alongside my teammates," said Mariota on the school's website. "I look forward to earning my degree next year and to the rest of my career at this great university."
Mariota completed 227 of 360 passes (63.1%) for 3,412 yards and 30 touchdowns as a sophomore. His 3,994 yards of total offense set a single-season Oregon record.
Mariota has started all 25 games for the Ducks in his two seasons. He is the Pac-12 Conference's current career leader in pass efficiency rating at 165.67. He is the only quarterback from a BCS AQ conference team to pass for at least 30 touchdowns the past two years and his current streak of 25 straight games with at least one touchdown pass is listed as the third-longest in the nation.
Mariota's center, Hroniss Grasu, said he will also return in 2014. Mariota said they have grown close over their time together at Oregon and wanted to make their decision together.