Heisman winner Marcus Mariota huddles with NFL teams
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INDIANAPOLIS — The Heisman Trophy winner has spent part the last six weeks learning how to call plays.
Marcus Mariota, you see, hasn’t huddled since high school.
He’ll have to do so in the NFL for all but one team — the Eagles, coached by his former Oregon boss, Chip Kelly.
Preparing for the inevitable this past month, Mariota’s personal passing coach, Kevin O’Connell, printed out sheets with plays on them. He asked Mariota to read them out load, with authority.
“That’s something little,” the former Oregon quarterback said Thursday the NFL Scouting Combine. “But as this process goes, it’s going to help me with whatever team I get to in terms of just speaking in the huddle and articulating the plays.”
Mariota is easy for NFL teams — perhaps even the Bears — to dream on, particularly at the NFL’s annual Underwear Olympics. At 6-4, 222 pounds, Mariota hopes to run an under 4.5-second 40-yard dash.
But Mariota, who went 36-5 in college, is still a projection pick. He wasn’t asked to read defenses at Oregon the way he would in a more transitional pro-style offense. Transitioning from a hair-on-fire no-huddle to the NFL requires changes big and small, starting with the huddle itself.
“It seems like a little detail, but that is kind of a big thing,” he said. “There’s other things as well. Three-, five-, seven-step drops under center. That’s all stuff I’ve been able to work on the last month.”
O’Connell coached Mariota before being named the Browns quarterback coach this week. He brought Philip Rivers to Mariota’s San Diego-area workout hub; the Chargers quarterback told him to be himself.
“There’s a lot of different things you have to go through as a rookie quarterback,” Mariota said. “For me that’s one thing, amongst a lot. I’m going to have to do my best to be able to handle all of it.”
That pushes Mariota, who has been ranked everywhere from the No. 1 pick in the draft — ahead of Florida State’s Jameis Winston — to being available when the Bears pick at No. 7.
“Any motivation starts with some type of doubt,” he said. “As an athlete I’ve built my motivation over the years as well. But that is stuff you have to kind of put in the past and not worry about it move forward. I would say it’s a mixture of both.”