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Marcus Mariota, Oregon's burgeoning sports medicine specialist

LOS ANGELES -- Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota would have been a surefire first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft. The whole debate about whether college athletes should be paid? He could have avoided a year’s worth of answering those questions; he’d be making millions right now.

[Related: Mark Helfrich on Pac-12 Football Media Day Special]

But the two-time first-team All-Pac-12 signal caller is back in Eugene. Winning a Pac-12 championship and participating in the College Football Playoff is fun and all, but one of the biggest reasons why Mariota returned was so he could get that piece of paper and extra line on his resume that says he’s a college graduate.

“I wanted to get my degree; I wanted to leave with that in hand, because football is only a short period of your life, and I wanted to prepare myself for after,” Mariota said at Wednesday's Pac-12 Football Media Day at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. Mariota says he is "a couple" credits shy of graduating.

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Ducks coach Mark Helfrich is an admirer of what the general science major is able to do in the classroom.

“When we’re going through the run we had last season and he’s taking all this upper-division biology, upper-division science… it was impressive,” Helfrich said. “And managing media obligations and still doing everything he does in the community, which is substantial; the guy continues to amaze me.”

[Related video: Mariota's passion for science rivals football]

And it’s not just getting that diploma that motivates Mariota; he has a vision of what he wants to do with it too. Mariota is interested in sports medicine and physical therapy, and interned with the Oregon sports medicine department.

“It gave me kind of an insight about what that type of job or that type of work entails. I like helping athletes,” Mariota said.

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