Oregon tight end Matt Mariota has a most impressive mentor.
Older brother Marcus is just a phone call or text away, and in some cases this offseason, he was just a short walk away at the Ducks’ athletic facilities.
“He’s actually really helpful. He and I, we’ll text each other after every practice. He wants to see some film; he’ll criticize me on certain stuff,” Matt said. “But it’s a blessing to have him, because, especially at tight end, they’re really, really, really in tune with quarterbacks. So having a brother as a quarterback makes it a lot easier.”
While Matt was busy learning a new position during spring practices over the past several weeks, his older brother was busy working on his return to the Tennessee Titans.
Marcus broke his right leg at the end of the last season and he rehabbed both back home in Hawaii and in Eugene. The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner worked out — appropriately enough — at the Marcus Mariota Sports Performance Center in the Casanova Center on campus.
In his second pro season, Marcus ranked 10th in the NFL with a 95.6 passer rating, third-best in franchise history. He threw 26 touchdowns with only nine interceptions, and his 3,426 yards passing were the most for this team since 2011.
“I hung out with my brother at Oregon,” he told reporters in Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. “I’d go in every day to get some treatment and do little things that hopefully would help me through my process. But for the most part I kind of just took some time away from the game, reflected a bit and enjoyed some family time.”
The most decorated player in Oregon’s history, Marcus set school records with more than 10,700 passing yards and 135 total touchdowns, including 105 passing, 29 rushing and two receiving. He rushed for more than 2,200 yards over his Oregon career, which ended early when he decided to go pro. He was the second-overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
Matt followed his older brother’s footsteps to Eugene and in the upcoming season he’ll be a redshirt sophomore shifting from linebacker to tight end. He’ll help shore up a position that saw the departure of Pharaoh Brown, Johnny Mundt and Evan Baylis.
So, no, he’s not a quarterback. Marcus’ records at Oregon are safe.
“Obviously, my brother, it’s a huge offensive influence,” Matt said about the switch. “Watching him throughout the years, I kind of pick up on the offense, I pick up on different stuff. I think it was just easy for me to come over. And it was something I wanted to do.”
Matt has just wrapped up spring practices. He had a reception for 11 yards in the annual spring game on Saturday, which earned him a loud ovation from the nearly 37,000 fans at Autzen Stadium.
“To be honest, I didn’t even hear it,” Matt said. “I was just locked in and when I get off the field my teammates and everybody was like, ‘Everybody’s cheering for you’ and I was like, ‘Well, I didn’t really hear it.’ I guess I’ll have to go and watch it on TV because my parents recorded it.”
Like his older brother, Matt Mariota hails from Hawaii and was a walk-on for the Ducks when he arrived in 2015.
Matt and the Ducks are embarking on their first season under coach Willie Taggart, who replaced Mark Helfrich after Oregon finished 4-8 overall last season and 2-7 in the Pac-12.
“I think we’re all bonding a lot more. It’s like a family atmosphere” Matt said. “We never used to really hang out but now it’s like all the kids want to hang out, they want to do stuff together. It’s really, really nice.”
Before the spring game, the Marcus Mariota Sports Performance Center was given a traditional Hawaiian blessing. Older brother Marcus was there, tearing up after the ceremony.
The younger Mariota was reminded that Marcus always called him the better athlete.
“He knows who’s the real athlete,” Matt joked with a smile.