The biggest stage at Paramount Studios in Hollywood wasn’t reserved for shooting a movie Wednesday.
But if it had been, it could have been titled "The Amazing Marcus Mariota."
It was Pac-12 Conference Football Media Day and Mariota, the University of Oregon quarterback and Saint Louis School graduate, was front and center on the big screen, the larger-than-life face of the self-proclaimed "conference of champions" for the opening of 2014.
On a day the Ducks were announced as the media’s preseason favorite to win the conference, the red carpet was rolled out for Mariota.
Commissioner Larry Scott made a gushing introduction as the conference showcased a video that held up the two-time all-conference quarterback and recent general science graduate as its ideal of a true, well-rounded scholar athlete.
"(He) recently passed up a chance to go to the NFL, undoubtedly as a high draft choice, because he wanted to stay at Oregon and earn his degree," Scott said. "We believe that encouraging our student athletes to tackle challenging majors, such as Marcus is in, even with the demands made on their time by their sports, is critical. Especially at a time when so much of our economy, especially in the Pac-12’s (geographic) footprint, is focused on technological innovation, science, math and engineering."
Mariota, who returns as a redshirt junior, is "the perfect blend of try to learn as much as possible at a very high level and then just go out and play and create those ‘ooh-ahhh’ magical moments," the video explains.
"He’s such a positive force," Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said. "That’s on our campus, on our team or across the community."
Helfrich could give you chapter and verse on this — and did. When asked later by reporters how much Mariota’s return helps the Ducks, Helfrich shot back: "A ton."
But Helfrich noted there were two important components. "And, obviously, on the field Marcus’ contribution and dynamic nature and the way he plays kind of speaks for itself.
The behind-the-scenes thing would be deciding to come back and his leadership. He’s 100 percent true. He’s 100 percent dedicated to the team and 100 percent credible."
Helfrich said, "A lot of guys talk a good game. Everything that guy (Mariota) does is gospel. If I’m a backup guard and I see that guy forego what he could have made ($12 million-$18 million), it’s not some lip service dream, this is a reality, a ton of lot of money….like ‘that guy turned down how much? OK, I’ll watch him.’ That’s huge."
But there was no indication Mariota’s head had grown too big for any of the assortment of Duck helmets by day’s end.
"I take it as an honor, as a privilege and an opportunity to hopefully provided a good influence," Mariota told reporters afterward. "As a kid from Hawaii, to say that I have influence from the Pac-12 Conference is pretty surreal because I grew up on a small island in the middle of the Pacific."
At Paramount Studios they might have titled it, "From Kalaepohaku to Hollywood."
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.