LOS ANGELES -- Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has been the big man around town in the lead up to the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl this week and for good reason. The Heisman Trophy winner has handled all of the media attention and pressure that comes with winning such an award easily, and rarely appeared flustered or lacking for an answer despite hours upon hours in front of the cameras answering everything from his travel itinerary to Florida State's defensive alignments.
If there was one area which the signal-caller did try to deflect, it's when it came to his NFL future. Mariota will have until Jan. 15 -- three days after the national championship game -- to figure out if he will declare for the 2015 NFL Draft, but did open up slightly when asked who he will model his game after at the next level.
"Growing up I was a huge Michael Vick fan. Lately I love watching Aaron Rodgers play," Mariota said. "That being said, I hope I can emulate both those guys in my game. The way Michael Vick uses his legs and is able to throw out of the pocket really changes games. The way that Aaron Rodgers is able to sit in the pocket and make throws that not a lot of people can make -- I hope I can be half what those guys are and emulate it into my game."
The topic of how Mariota and counterpart Jameis Winston at Florida State will translate to the next level is one of the key storylines heading into the prestigious college football bowl game. The Ducks star has been frequently compared to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick due to his athleticism and Seattle Seahawks signal-caller Russell Wilson because of his passing accuracy. Vick and Rodgers don't come up as much, but one can understand why the junior is enamored with taking parts of their games with him to the NFL.
Mariota has posted a ridiculous 38-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season in what many assume (even his coaches) to be his final season of college football. While his own teammates and coaches are reluctant to try and pigeonhole their leader into a certain type of quarterback, the man scheming against him for Thursday's game believes he has all the traits that can translate to the next level whenever Mariota decides to declare.
"I think he's very smart with the football. I think he knows where he's going with the ball," Seminoles defensive coordinator Charles Kelly remarked. "He has great vision. I think he sees the field. He does a good job of buying time in the pocket and that doesn't mean just scrambling. It just means buying time where he can see downfield, where a guy gets open. He's a very intelligent football player.
High praise from a future opponent and certainly some traits that will remind NFL scouts of Rodgers and Vick when they watch the Heisman winner at the Rose Bowl.