NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Titans have selected Oregon's Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 draft pick overall, hoping their third try at landing a franchise quarterback in the past decade is the charm.
The Titans selected the Heisman Trophy winner Thursday night after starting three quarterbacks last season with Jake Locker benched in October for rookie Zach Mettenberger. But he lost his six starts, and the Titans couldn't afford to pass up Mariota with Charlie Whitehurst the only other quarterback on the roster.
Mariota could start the season opener Sept. 13 at Tampa Bay against the top pick, Jameis Winston. Neither was at the NFL draft in Chicago on Thursday -- Mariota, from Hawaii was in Honolulu; Winston was with family and friends in his hometown of Bessemer, Alabama.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Tuesday that a quarterback picked at No. 2 would be expected to start the season. And the coach known for working with pocket passers like Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner even says he'll incorporate some spread plays into his offense.
The quarterback position has been a revolving door at Tennessee.
The Titans drafted Vince Young at No. 3 overall in 2006 and Locker at No. 10 in 2011, and Young was the last quarterback to lead this team in yards passing in consecutive seasons, and that was 2006 and 2007. They have started eight different quarterbacks since trading away Steve McNair to Baltimore in 2006.
Tennessee needs an infusion of offense after ranking 29th in the NFL last season averaging 303.7 yards per game in Whisenhunt's first year. The Titans ranked 22nd with 213.3 yards passing per game, and Mariota was the humble leader of Oregon's high-flying offense for three seasons.
Mariota's ability to create plays with his arm and his legs took the Ducks to the brink of a national championship before falling short to Ohio State, finishing the season 13-2.
Along the way Mariota won every major award he qualified for, starting with the Heisman, as well as AP Player of the Year, the Maxwell and Walter Camp awards and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year.
Mariota set a conference record for most touchdowns in a single season with 58; 42 via pass, 15 on the run and a touchdown catch. His passing touchdowns set a Pac-12 single-season record. He also set the conference's career mark for career touchdowns with 136.
He threw at least one touchdown pass in all 41 college games he played in at Oregon, starting in every one of his appearances. And he's one of just four quarterbacks in FBS history to pass for more than 10,000 yards and run for more than 2,000 in his career.
Mariota was known for his steady demeanor from the start. Off the field, he was shy and unassuming, but he stayed on the field following every game to shake hands and pose for pictures.
A three-star recruit for the Ducks out of St. Louis High School in Honolulu, Mariota is fiercely proud of his island roots: His helmet facemask was designed to include the numbers 8-0-8 in a nod to the state's area code.
There were three memorable plays this season that really demonstrated Mariota's ability to create on the field: An acrobatic second-quarter keeper against Wyoming that he finished by somersaulting into the end zone; an inspired shovel pass to freshman running back Royce Freeman in Oregon's win over then-No. 7 Michigan State; and a 28-yard touchdown reception from Freeman in a regular-season loss to Arizona.
Spartans coach Mark Dantonio summed Mariota up this way: "What he does is lead. What he shows is toughness. And what he does is create."
Mariota has already attracted several sponsors including Nike -- co-founder Phil Knight is an Oregon alum -- and more recently Subway and Beats By Dre.