Why will the latest to earn college football's top individual honor, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, be different from those guys?
Start with this -- he has everything an NFL team looks for in a quarterback. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound signal-caller has the height and frame (I think he can still add additional weight for some extra body armor), as well as plenty of arm strength. I've seen him in person and know that he can make all the throws. Mental acuity and capacity -- he has it. He checks every box when it comes to determination and work ethic, too.
His laid-back demeanor might concern people, but don't let the chill vibe he gives off fool you. Mariota is a true, voracious competitor and he commands respect from his teammates, who hate to let him down.
Mariota's athletic ability makes him a special talent, and I believe he'll be able to transition to playing in a pro-style offense after operating out of the spread at Oregon. He'll put in the necessary time to get better. Then he'll adapt and thrive.
Of course, plenty of Heisman winners have had the athletic talent to succeed. More than anything, though, I put my trust in Mariota's intangibles -- those things that can't be measured.
Why do players become better as pros and make it in the NFL? It's in the intangibles and the desire to continue to improve. Plenty of guys try to -- and do -- get by on athletic ability. But the reason guys like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady have had such great careers is because they play and prepare with a burning desire to win.
Brees was supposed to be too short to make it in the NFL, Manning was supposed to be too slow, and Brady was supposed to be slower than Manning.
They've achieved greatness, though. Finding consistent NFL success is not just about want-to. It's about having a goal and figuring out how best to achieve it. Brees, Brady and Manning figure out the best way to do things, and work to get to where they want to be.
He has a long way to go to come close to reaching the level of those players, but I think Mariota is built in the same vein.
There's no doubt about Mariota's athletic ability, and, before long, I think any questions about his competitiveness, leadership ability and desire to be great will vanish, too. He has the rare combination of athleticism and intangibles that has eluded past Heisman winners who failed at the next level.