By Andrew Greif
Tribune News Service
NEW YORK -- Marcus Mariota's escape from New York will have to wait a bit longer as he takes a Heisman Trophy victory lap.
Leaving the spotlight behind won't be as easy, what with the College Football Playoff and a semifinal matchup against reigning national champ Florida State ahead on Jan. 1.
But as Mariota put it Saturday night in the afterglow of the Ducks' first Heisman Trophy, as overjoyed as he was to hoist the iconic stiff-arm trophy and be named college football's best player, he'd rather return home soon to prepare for blitzes with teammates than face more cameras by himself.
"Honestly, I'm looking forward to it," Mariota said Saturday during his post-ceremony press conference, adorned in Samoan and Hawaiian leis given to him by friends and family. "These last couple days have been hectic but it's been so much fun and been a great experience, but I'm just looking back to getting on the field and playing and go back to my teammates and going back to work. We do have a team goal."
Maybe it was appropriate that Mariota's first instinct was to think about returning to the field.
He likened the moments before his name was called as the Heisman's 80th winner -- the first from Hawaii and second with ties to the state of Oregon, 52 years after Oregon State's Terry Baker -- to the anticipation before kickoff.
In retrospect, he needn't worry.
Of the 929 ballots cast, he appeared on all but 10 and won 90.9 percent of possible points, beating runner-up Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin by more than double. The result lived up to the widely held expectation that Mariota would win in a fashion befitting his read-option scrambles -- in a runaway, with others just trying to stay close.
But that belief was no comfort for Mariota, his family and the contingent of Oregon officials who anxiously waited inside the ceremony's Best Buy Theatre.
"It almost feels sacred in there with so many legends of the sport and the trophy that every kid who plays football dreams of winning," Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. "It almost felt like going to church. We had a lot of confidence that he was going to win but that still didn't make it any less emotional."
Said Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens: "I think everyone gets nervous when they're unpeeling that envelope."
It was unclear whether the typically stoic Mariota was more nervous before he was announced as the winner or after, when he stepped to the stage and delivered a prepared speech.
When he paused to reflect himself before thanking his parents and brother -- "this is the hardest part" -- 1976 Heisman winner Tony Dorsett called out encouragement from behind Mariota.
"My heart was pounding the entire time," Mariota said.
The victory set of celebrations from Samoa, where his father, Toa, hails, to New York. Teammates immediately posted their congratulations to social media. Bronson Yim, an Oregon defensive back who has known Mariota since he was a middle school soccer player, tweeted a photo of his friend holding the trophy and, simply, "Tears."