Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota will be competing for the Heisman Trophy on different teams in different conferences this season, but they could have been teammates competing for the starting job at Oregon. Manziel originally committed to the Ducks in June, 2010, only to pledge to Texas A&M three months later when the home-state Aggies offered.
"He was very honest and up front about if school A or school B comes calling, I'm out," Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich told the Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday. "At that point, we had both he and Marcus committed, and we wouldn't trade Marcus for anything in the world."
Mariota threw for 2,677 yards and 32 touchdowns against six interceptions and ran for 752 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last season, leading Oregon to a 12-1 record and Fiesta Bowl win. Manziel, of course, became the first redshirt freshman to win the Heisman and is college football's most compelling figure, for good or bad.
Coincidentally, Manziel and Mariota finished No. 1 and 2 in ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating metric last season.
But Helfrich, entering his first season in charge at Oregon, says Mariota was always his pick.
"He is the backbone of our team," Helfrich said. "Great guy, great leader. A guy, who that year, we were on longer ... you just have to get to know guys differently in recruiting, and I had known Marcus a little bit better at that point.
"We wouldn't trade Marcus for (anyone)."
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.