Heisman watchers enjoy what they see

By Mark Baker | Local News | |

Oregon fans pour on the praise for the quarterback as they wait to view Marcus Mariota’s big moment

Sharon Alden was all of 3 years old the first time a University of Oregon football player (Norm Van Brocklin) received any votes for the Heisman Trophy, college football’s most prestigious award, way back in 1948.

So she certainly wasn’t going to miss the Heisman watch party on Saturday night at the UO Duck Store on campus.

“Oh, quality guy,” Alden said of UO quarterback Marcus Mariota, who became the first Duck in school history to win the Heisman Saturday in New York City.

“He’s charismatic. He’s polite. I think he’s really interested in other people and cares about other people. And besides all that — a fantastic football player. You don’t get all that very often.”

No, you don’t.

Which is why the 75 or so Duck fans gathered at the newly remodeled store for a “Heisman Watch Party” — most of them wearing yellow leis for the Hawaiian-themed party in honor of Mariota’s home state — jumped to their feet and screamed their lungs out when the announcement that everyone expected was made on ESPN just before 6 p.m.

“Whew! What a moment. Amazing,” said Cleven Mmari, 49, director of IT services for the UO’s Division of Student Life, after the screaming died down.

And this from a man dressed in orange pants and shirt, the colors of that other school 40 miles north of Eugene?

Mmari said he didn’t have time to go home and change after work because of a power outage on campus Saturday afternoon that shut off the lights at Matthew Knight Arena, and the Duck Store, and everywhere else, for about 45 minutes.

Mmari was busy working overtime, making sure all the computer servers were back up and working in his department, when he realized the Heisman show was about to come on TV at 5 p.m. That’s when he hustled over to the Duck Store instead of going home.

“I didn’t have time to go home and change to the proper outfit,” Mmari said with a laugh. “But the servers are all good.”

The campus Duck Store held the watch party in conjunction with the grand opening of the newly remodeled Duck Store at East 13th Avenue and Kincaid Street.

“He’s awesome,” said Jeanie Fugi of Eugene, a seventh-grade math and science teacher at Monroe Middle School, who was sitting with boyfriend Al Alcalde, fire chief for the city of Oakridge, and her daughter, Saori Fugi, 17.

“He just seems like a really amazing guy,” Jeanie Fugi continued, before the Heisman announcement was made. “He’s a great athlete, but he just seems really grounded.”

“Young kids can look up to him. He’s a good role model. And I want him as a future son-in-law,” she said, glancing at her daughter, a North Eugene High School student, whose face was suddenly crimson.

“He’s got it in the bag,” Fugi predicted before Mariota was announced as the Heisman recipient less than an hour later.

Sherryl Lattion, 33, of Springfield, came to the watch party wearing a green UO Santa hat, bringing along her niece and two nephews.

“Well, he seems like a really nice guy,” Lattion said of Mariota, just as her niece, Alyssa, 12, blurted out: “She has a crush on him!”

“I don’t have a crush on him,” Lattion said. “I just think he’s cute, in a young guy sort of way.”

All Lattion’s nephew, 8-year-old Braden, knows, is that Mariota is a “really good football player. And really cool.”

“He’s got Duck swag,” Alyssa said.

Not much doubt about that.

“I think it’s really fabulous and amazing,” Mmari said of Mariota’s winning the Heisman. “It’s really, really incredible, and I’m very proud to be a Duck today.”

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkBakerRG . Email mark.baker@registerguard.com .