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Oregon's Marcus Mariota is first Duck to win Heisman Trophy

What many have been presuming for weeks was made official Saturday night, when Marcus Mariota was named the winner of the Heisman Trophy in New York City. Mariota is the first Duck to win the Heisman Trophy and first Pac-12 player to be recognized as a Heisman winner since USC quarterback Matt Leinart won it in 2004.

[Related video: 2014 Heisman Trophy award presentation press conference]

The award seemingly has been three years in the making for Mariota, who exploded onto the scene as a redshirt freshman and never looked back after completing 18 of 22 passes in the 2012 opener against Arkansas State. The numbers he has put up since he was named the starting signal-caller are eye-popping, like the fact that he has thrown 38 touchdowns and just two interceptions this year while rushing for 14 more scores. With at least one game remaining in the 2014 season, Mariota is on track to throw for more than 40 touchdown passes (which would break Matt Barkley’s single-season Pac-12 record of 39) and 4,000 yards this year (only six other quarterbacks have touched that plateau in conference history). If he decides to declare for the NFL draft (where he could easily go No. 1), he will finish second all-time in the Pac-12 record books with 101 touchdown passes … and counting; he’d have to throw 16 in the last two games to surpass Barkley.

[Related: Football fans share favorite Marcus memories]

Oh by the way, all of those numbers listed above – single-season touchdown passes, career touchdown passes, single-season passing yardage, not to mention his 10,125 career passing yards – are all school records. In just three seasons, and season No. 3 isn’t even done yet.

[Related video: Oregon's Marcus Mariota reacts to Heisman support from some young fans]

Most importantly, Mariota led the Ducks to a Pac-12 championship this season and has Oregon on the path to its first-ever potential national championship in football. When his team needed him most, Mariota, a quarterback with running back speed, always stepped up to the plate. This was especially evident in Oregon’s huge non-conference 46-27 win over Michigan State. Trailing 27-18 deep into the third quarter, Mariota threw two touchdown passes of 24 and 37 yards within three minutes to give the Ducks the lead in the blink of an eye. By the fourth quarter, Mariota and the Ducks turned it into a no-doubter.

[Related video: UO faculty congratulate Marcus Mariota on Heisman]

And then, of course, there is the off-the-field stuff that has made him so easy to root for. To call him humble would be an understatement; he always deflects the credit and gives it to his teammates and coaches. He brings a Cliff bar and a bottle of water to a homeless guy on the corner every day. He thanks fans for being appreciative of him. Stuff like this is why fifth-graders in USC and UCLA territory make a video campaigning for Mariota to win the Heisman.

[Related video: Marcus Mariota's emotional acceptance speech]

Congratulations to Marcus Mariota and the University of Oregon. The second-seeded Ducks play No. 3 Florida State in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff, Jan. 1 at 2 p.m. PT on ESPN.

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