Happy New Year.
I hope 2015 is treating you all well so far and will continue to as the year advances.
I just returned from the Rose Bowl, and Marcuspalooza continues on in full swing! On to the national championship game for Hawaii’s Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks.
And, yes, Mariota is as nice a guy and as genuinely caring about other people as all the stories you’ve read or heard indicate. He treats strangers with sincerity and warmth. You could tell some of the endless and repetitive questioning was getting to him a little, but he still found a reservoir of at least respect for even the silliest.
I’d interacted with him just once prior to Rose Bowl week, more than four years ago when he was a senior at Saint Louis School. It was obvious I was from the hometown paper, and he acknowledged that in subtle ways. But Mariota seems to be sincerely appreciative to all media and understands our role, as irritating as it must be to him at times — especially since he is not outgoing and does not enjoy the spotlight.
After the postgame press conference Thursday following Oregon’s 59-20 win over Florida State, I shook his hand in gratitude for his time and congratulations on the win and told him I would be passing the baton to Stephen Tsai who will cover him for us in Texas. He smiled, thanked me in return and said, “Travel safe.”
Just two words, and two words many of us say to each other all the time. What makes it different and impressive is his sincerity, the tone. You can tell when people really mean it.
Maybe one reason Mariota is so good socially is that he isn’t into social media, seems to perhaps have a disdain for it. At one of his media availabilities, a reporter asked Mariota what his hashtag for this whirlwind experience would be. His reply was, “No hashtag. I don’t have a Twitter.”
>> Yes, the Ohio State football team does have a Hawaii connection — the same one that every Urban Meyer-coached team has had the past two decades. Kalihi born-and-raised Hiram de Fries is a volunteer coach for the Buckeyes and one of Meyer’s closest confidants.
They met about 25 years ago when Meyer was an assistant coach at Colorado State and de Fries happened to be visiting his college alma mater.
De Fries was there when Meyer coached Florida to a national championship in 2007, interestingly against Ohio State.