Marcus Mariota seems too good to be true. Good luck finding any evidence to the contrary.
A speeding ticket for going 80 in a 55 mph zone is the biggest blemish on his record, and when it was reported during his time in Oregon it qualified as big news.
For a long time, all indications were he didn’t dislike anything — not broccoli, slow drivers in the left lane or heights. And as I searched for a simple bad habit, I went a good while without anything better than pretend frustration that Mariota smiles all the time.
“Something he doesn’t like?” said his college backup and road roommate at Oregon, Jeff Lockie. “That’s tough. He likes a lot of things. He likes everybody, that’s for sure. One thing he doesn’t like? Let’s see. A food? There’s got to be a food. I would think that there is one. But now it’s getting tough to think of.”
Said Mariota’s San Diego-based trainer, Ryan Flaherty: “I spent five hours a day with him for about two or three months a year and he is probably the least annoying person I know. I’m sorry, but there is nothing there.”
“He was just so chill,” Houston Texans defensive back Terrance Mitchell said of his college teammate. “It didn’t matter.”
Alas, about a dozen people into my inquisition, I learned of something that does bother him.
Mariota does not like messes.
“We were on a golf trip and I might have slept in a little bit,” Titans tight end Phillip Supernaw said. “And he’s very punctual. He’s the type of guy, if you’re going on a trip, it’s bags-at-the-door the night before. I’m kind of like throwing all my stuff in the bag at the last minute.
“So I woke up and my bags were already packed, ready to go. Perfectly folded. Everything. He woke me up with my outfit on the bed, ready to roll. With no effort, I found the one thing that can drive him crazy.”
Mariota’s packing job included Supernaw’s toiletries. He skipped brushing his teeth instead of disrupting his quarterback-packed stuff, which was already in the car, ready to go.
The quarterback’s version of the story is way milder.
“You’ve just got to be ready to go,” Mariota said. “We had an early tee time. It was collaborated, not a big deal. He wanted to set the tee time earlier and wanted to play 36 holes.”
Jack Conklin also has gotten a serious dose of Mariota’s urge to be neat on his own schedule.
“We’re staying in a hotel so they come and make your bed every day for you,” said Conklin, Mariota’s training camp roommate. “Every morning, his bed’s made. I guess people have their routines. For me, I’m in a hotel, someone’s going to make it for me.”
Mariota said Nelson Mandela used to make his bed, even in a hotel.
“You start your day right, it’s just building a good habit,” he said. “If someone of that nature can do it, I can do the same. It’s kind of a habit. It’s something that if I don’t do, it kind of bothers me.”
The neatness might provide the rare subject teammates can razz Mariota about.
“I’m pretty OCD,” he said, before turning to how the desire for neatness might help him in football. “I like to fine-tune every single detail. I think that’s a habit built maybe from me being OCD.”
But Lockie was on that golf trip with Mariota and Supernaw and he doesn’t tease his pal about his desire for order, he latches on to it.
“That’s a positive,” Lockie said. “He’s neat and organized. But he’s not a freak. He was neat and organized and so was I and he encouraged me to be more neat and organized. I thought that was a huge positive. And my mom would say that’s a huge positive as well. That’s a great attribute.”
While neatness doesn’t qualify as a bad habit, Lockie was able to point to one, albeit one out of Mariota’s control.
“He is a very loud snorer,” Lockie said. “You’ve got to get him on that. That’s about the only bad thing I can find about him. It’s off and on. I’d give him a hard time. He’d always fall asleep first.”
Then, defending Mariota in a way I could imagine Mariota defending him, Lockie added: “I snore really loud too. He was usually asleep by then. So he didn’t get to hear.”
“I don’t know how I could really help with that,” Mariota said, laughing.
As for something beyond messes he doesn’t like …
It took an email to his mom, Alana Deppe-Mariota, to get anywhere.
“Tough question,” she replied. “He really hates spiders.”
“I do,” Mariota said. “I’m not a big fan. At Oregon, they are everywhere. They stick all over your car and stuff. After a while you get annoyed with it.”