Mariota, a redshirt junior at the University of Oregon, is the team's marquee star as the Ducks point toward the NCAA's new playoff system.
However, Mariota's career had a rocky beginning, the Times reveals.
He rode the bench during his sophomore and junior years at St. Louis High School in Honolulu after coaches chose to play older and more experienced quarterback Jeremy Higgins. When Mariota attended an Oregon football camp in 2010, he almost chose the University of Washington over Oregon because Johnny Manziel, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012, was offered an Oregon scholarship instead of him.
His first year at Oregon got off to a similarly rough start.
"Some of the coaches on our staff didn't like him because he literally did not say a word," Ducks coach Mark Helfrich told the Times. "He just kind of deferred to the elders on the team from a leadership standpoint. That turned some people off. 'Hey, can this guy really lead us?'"