Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has played in fewer than 30 NFL games, but he’s already drawing rave reviews for his leadership skills, both on and off the field.
Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, has been a good teammate for as long as anyone can remember, and a small army of his friends and colleagues from throughout his career spoke to The Ringer’s Kevin Clark about the 23-year-old Hawaiian’s terrific intangibles.
One of the most telling stories came from Matt Cassel, the Titans’ backup quarterback. Cassel, a 12-year veteran with 80 starts under his belt, has played with some of the greatest signal callers in recent history, including Tom Brady and Tony Romo, but in this post-practice scene, it was the veteran who ended up taking his cues from the young gun.
“Everyone’s in a rush to get out,” Cassel said. “There’s these folding chairs in the meeting room that weren’t put away. [Mariota] walks in the back of the meeting room and starts folding them up and going and helping somebody who [would have to do it]. There is no other player who is doing this. I’m ready to get out of there, and I see that and I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, I’ll help too.'”
Earning the respect of the locker room is one of the toughest jobs a young quarterback can have, but for Mariota, leadership by example is an instinct. By the end of the night, several teammates had joined Mariota and Cassel in putting away the chairs.
Mariota’s selfless nature dates back to his high school days, when he earned the respect of his teammates by hauling equipment day after day.
According to the story:
Darnell Arceneaux, Mariota’s high school coach, said there was a tradition at Saint Louis High School in Hawaii in which the lowest quarterback on the depth chart would pick up equipment after practice and carry it to the locker room. That tradition stood until Mariota wouldn’t let anyone else pick up balls and cones at practice.
“So we’ve got this guy who has already committed to Oregon and he’s bringing in as many footballs as he can,” he said. “It was amazing.”
With those glowing assessments, it seems clear that Mariota is the kind of player coaches love to have on their roster. His attitude has helped him adjust to one of the most intense spotlights in sports — last season, at just 23, Mariota threw for 3,426 yards and a 95.6 passer rating.
The Titans will open their season on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
Check out Clark’s entire piece here.
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