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In what will surely become one of the proudest moments in Hawaii sports, local boy and Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota was awarded the Heisman Trophy, the first player from Hawaii to win the honor. It is the highest honor in all of collegiate football and among the most prestigious trophies in all of American sport. Because of the overall spirit of ohana we enjoy in Hawaii, we all got to share in his glory. And glorious it was.
Not only did former Saint Louis School quarterback Marcus Mariota have a sensational year with astronomical stats, he also won the Heisman with the second largest number of votes in the history of the coveted award, and nearly twice the total of the runner-up.
As Mariota attended the awards ceremony in New York City, people crowded around television sets and computer screens throughout Hawaii to see him win the Heisman. And that might be the best part of him winning: we knew that he would. The prevailing sentiment among Hawaii sports fans was that “There’s no way he can’t win!”
There have been other Hawaii football players in contention for the Heisman Trophy. Most recently Manti Teo of Notre Dame, who played high school football at Punahou School. He was a finalist for the award in 2012 and finished second in the voting. In 2007, University of Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan was also a finalist for the award but fell short of the votes needed. A couple of years before that, UH quarterback Timmy Chang, like Mariota a Saint Louis High School player, was a big part of the Heisman conversation.
Hopes were high for all three players, with local news outlets following them in the weeks before the Heisman Trophy was awarded. Sports fans were abuzz, but were let down when our guys didn’t prevail. All three players are towering figures in Hawaii sports lore for their football greatness. But Marcus Mariota has done what no collegiate football player from Hawaii ever has in winning the Heisman Trophy.
So when Mariota sat under the bright lights giving interviews following his win in the Big City, draped in fresh-flown pikake and maile leis, we here at home cheering him on and welling up in our football chairs or neighborhood bars with a real sense of pride that we all get when local boys and girls succeed on the world stage.
Mariota showed incredible poise on and off the field this season. Grilled by countless reporters about his Heisman win, that poise was back. He was humble, gracious, and grateful to his team and his family. He also thanked the rest of his fans at home, because anyone who grew up in Hawaii knows that at the end of the day, we’re all one big ohana.