by DSH contributing writer Brian Mahuna
The formula for Success in the NFL is constantly shifting, being re-calculated, and discussed at great length by the game's greatest minds. No two analysts share the exact same template, nor does anyone really know what the concrete formula for success in the NFL is.
Does sheer speed, strength, and athleticism mean you'll be a monster at the game's highest level?
Some would say yes.
Players like Herschel Walker, Adrian Peterson, Dez Bryant, Lawrence Taylor, and Reggie White were physical freaks. Their god given ability was enough to get them to the big time, and the skills they honed while there made them legendary. We're seeing a new breed of athletes find their way into the NFL based on raw ability. Ziggy Ansah, Jason Pierre-Paul, Dion Jordan, Jadaveon Clowney. What do those names have in common? All of them are athletic freaks of nature. Ansah was a track star in the 200 meters. No big deal.. For a normal sized human. Except that Ziggy is in the upwards of 260 pounds.
Aloha means good-bye: Marcus Mariota's arm, speed and leadership ability all mark him as a superlative NFL prospect. The league has to wait. however, because he's taking his talents to Autzen Stadium for another year (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports).
There is a YouTube video of Jason Pierre-Paul doing backflips on the football field. His wingspan is gigantic, and he's essentially one big fast-twitch muscle fiber. Dion Jordan, a name we're all familiar with, a 6'7” 250 pound monster with 3% body fat and the quickness of a gazelle. And Clowney.. Well. 4.53 in the 40 yard dash? Enough said. With players like these, one would think the physical aspect of the game is really the only thing that matters.
But what about the some of the most successful members of the league? Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Troy Aikman, the list goes on and on of players who didn't possess really elite athleticism, yet brought the game to it's knees with their play. Not just at the quarterback position either. The all time leading rusher in NFL history, Emmitt Smith wasn't that fastest or strongest, but his skill set was incredible. He could run with toughness, finesse, and smarts. And, he did so all the way to the Hall of Fame. Wes Welker, Nick Foles, Steve Largent, Marshawn Lynch, Jason Witten, Arian Foster. All players who possess maybe one of the elite physical attributes, but dominate the game because of the way they use their own skills to the maximum. They're all smart football players, and they all have made their mark on the league. With players like that, the mental aspect seems to be most important.
What happens when you find a player that fits both molds? One that is not only an elite athlete, but also one of those cerebral players that can break the game down into pieces. Those players are rare. Those players are a hot commodity. Everyone wants those players on their team. They are the type of players that rebuild franchises, sell jerseys, fill stadiums, and ultimately lead teams to wins.
Andrew Luck fits that profile, Cam Newton does as well. Calvin Johnson, Russell Wilson, Michael Irving, Earl Thomas, Jarius Byrd, Demarcus Ware, Michael Strahan and Ray Lewis all fit the mold of Cerebral play makers with imposing athletic ability. And they all have enjoyed success in the NFL because of it.
We have one of those types here in Oregon. He's become a superstar not just in the state, but throughout the Country. His physical ability is off the charts, sending opposing coaches into a frenzy trying to combat it. But his mental ability might be even more deadly. His calm, unflappable demeanor and charismatic personality made him a fan favorite and his humble, hardworking attitude has ensured he never strayed off the path of greatness he's on.
His name is Marcus Mariota. Super Mario to the folks who bleed green and yellow (and black and white and carbon and chrome). His highlight tape on YouTube for last season is over 30 minutes long, filled with a wide array of dazzling sprints away from defensive backs, laser-like throws in traffic, and expertly lofted deep bombs to a streaking wide receiver. The only thing possibly more impressive than his resume on the field, is his resume off of it. A scholar athlete, finishing his degree in something ridiculously involved like biology, he's in the process of laying down a foundation for the rest of his life and not just his career as an NFL Quarterback. He has endeared himself to the fans of this great program. He's constantly deflecting praise to his all star cast of teammates and coaches because he knows none of his success would be possible without their help. Super Mario fully realizes that without the rest of the Mighty Ducks, none of what he does makes much difference.
Frankly, I can't wait until August. I can't wait to see what this next year has in store. A season like last year, where a double digit win total is seen as something less than it is, only leaves the hankering for more Duck football in my mind. With the University of Oregon rising to various levels of prominence throughout the nation in all of their athletics teams, the spotlight has never been brighter. But I know for sure that Super Mario and friends will be ready.