NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – Marcus Mariota, winner of the 80th award of the Heisman Trophy, was humble and grateful in accepting recognition as the top player in college football for 2014, finishing his speech with a simple, "God bless and go Ducks."
The junior Oregon Ducks quarterback was recognized at a ceremony in New York on Saturday, December 13.
"I'm humbled to be standing here today," he said before thanking teammates, coaches, teachers and friends, saving his last words of gratitude for his parents – and his most emotion.
With tears running down both cheeks, he paused and addressed his mom, Alana, dad, Toa, brother, Matt, and extended family.
"Thank you," he said emotionally. "Thank you for sacrificing and providing me and Matt every opportunity," adding that words could not express how much love he had for all his family. Then he shared appreciation just for his parents.
"Mom and Dad, thank you for your love and for sharing it with me and Matt. We are truly grateful."
Mariota's lone mention of God was in his closing. It was understated, but in keeping with the privacy he cherishes about his life.
He was greeted by a number of greats who have preceded him in winning one of the most coveted prizes in athletics.
The last to congratulate him in the unique receiving line on the stage was Tim Tebow, the 2007 Heisman winner from the University of Florida. Tebow has been a bold spokesman about Christ, with "Tebowing" -- a reflective, prayerful pose he struck often on the field -- now a copyrighted trademark.
Tebow told ESPN Dec. 13 Mariota was up to the task in big play situations.
"The moment is never too big for him," Tebow said. "He's a great decision-maker."
Mariota might not open up about his faith unprompted in public forums, but when asked to talk about Christ, he is not shy.
In an interview before the 2014 football season, Mariota told the Fellowship of Christian Athletes that "faith plays a huge role" in his play on the field and that it is important to go all in for God, "glorifying Him with the abilities He's given us and shining our light for Him."
He added that it's not enough to just give him glory for what you do, but to do things with excellence to honor His name.
"It's being motivated to always set the bar higher and never getting complacent," he said. "We do that with His power for His glory."
Mariota is a 2011 graduate of the all-boys Saint Louis High School, a private parochial school in Honolulu, Hawaii.