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Marcus Mariota inspiring 2016 Asian Pacific Islander recruits

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Though many members of the Polynesian community already felt an immense amount of pride in Marcus Mariota for becoming the first player of Polynesian descent to win the Heisman last season, it was still very rewarding for many of the Polynesian players at The Opening a few weeks ago to play in the same state where Mariota had really won the award.

“He has been a role model, everybody looks up to him just because of how humble he is, how he gives all the glory to God,” Oregon running back commit and Hawaii native Vavae Malepeai said. “Growing up, that’s everybody’s role model now. I look up to him. He’s an inspiration to all the kids that things are possible even if you come from a small island.”

Marcus Mariota is the first Oregon player to win the Heisman Trophy and the first from the state of Hawaii. Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

Though many of the players admired Mariota before he won the Heisman (as well as nearly every other quarterback award out there last season), it seemed as though the publicity he received and the humility he displayed at all of his events was an even prouder moment for many of the Polynesian players’ parents at The Opening.

“Marcus’ accomplishments alone set the bar high for a lot of these Polynesian kids and gives them more of an incentive,” said Sam Tagaloa, father of four-star defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa. “If Marcus can do it, they can do it. It pushes them and gives them more drive to get to whatever it is they want in life.”

“The influence [Marcus] has and the examples of what he goes through, it’s invaluable,” echoed Eric Suhren, father of three-star offensive lineman Taleni Suhren. “As a father, I can’t thank him enough.”

Mariota has spoken before about how sometimes he was told there weren’t the same opportunities for kids and players on the islands as there were for kids and players on the mainland.

In his emotional Heisman acceptance speech he spoke to the Polynesian community, saying: “young Poly athletes everywhere, you should take this as motivation and dream big and strive for greatness.”

Four-star offensive guard Michael Eletise, who’s from Honolulu, said that he had a chance to work at a youth camp with Mariota last year and that the interaction has always stuck with him. He remembered how Mariota stayed for the full event, speaking with anyone who approached him, working with younger kids on their technique while reminding kids to stay in school.

Mariota’s Heisman was also the first win for any player from the state of Hawaii, which made Eletise and Malepeai very proud.

“He meant what he said,” Eletise said, “he wanted to win it for us [Hawaii].”

And because of that, now many Polynesians are counting themselves among the Duck faithful, according to several of the players and parents who attended The Opening.

And when it comes to role models, it’s harder to find one more genuine than Mariota.

Near the end of his Heisman speech, even after he had directed his words toward Polynesian players and brought up the state of Hawaii nearly as much as he did the University of Oregon, he spoke to his family and said thanks.

His tearful thanks to his family ended with him saying the Samoan phrase, “Fa’afetai tele lava,” which roughly translates to “Thank you very much.” Even for those who don’t speak Samoan or know much about where Mariota came from, it was evident how sincere he was and how important the Polynesian community was to him.

And the love is more than reciprocated.

“Just for our son to see another Polynesian of Samoan decent, to see that he was able to win the Heisman, that’s big,” said Cora Tagaloa, mother of Boss. “Our son and all the other Polynesians know that it is possible.”

via Marcus Mariota inspiring 2016 Polynesian recruits – College Football Nation Blog – ESPN.