Mariota: In A Nashville State Of Mind

Marcus Mariota checks out his ceremonial jersey as the first-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in the NFL Draft April 30 THOMAS BOYD / THE OREGONIAN / POOL PHOTO

Marcus Mariota checks out his ceremonial jersey as the first-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in the NFL Draft April 30 THOMAS BOYD / THE OREGONIAN / POOL PHOTO

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell may have trouble pronouncing his name, but there’s no doubt that Mariota-mania continues to sweep the nation. That should be no surprise to the local football fans who first saw him play in youth and high school leagues in Honolulu, and eventually followed his every move when he became a legendary figure at University of Oregon. Now, Marcus Mariota graces the cover of Sports Illustrated (for the fifth time) and has become an immediate sports marketing sensation as the top draft pick of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

Staying ever so humble — his trademark — Mariota immediately won over the folks of Tennessee by proclaiming his commitment to the franchise in his first press conference in the Music City. He’s scheduled to be in Nashville again this week, attending the Titans’ spring mini-camp. Brand-new Titan-true blue Mariota jerseys are popping up everywhere, from Kaimuki to the Grand Ole Opry.

Besides eventually winning the starting quarterback job over another young quarterback — former LSU star Zach Mellenberger — and trying to turn around a franchise that has struggled since its glory days from 1999 through the early 2000s, Mariota can win the hearts of Tennesseans everywhere by learning a few interesting facts about his new home town. (If he doesn’t have time for such trivia, or would rather hang out at the brand new L&L Drive-In that announced it would soon locate in Nashville, then these are items that you can share with your own friends who have just become Titan fans.)

First and foremost, the names of the players involved in the Music City Miracle, where the Titans stunned the Buffalo Bills in the 2000 AFC Playoffs with a cross-the-field lateral on a kickoff return in the final seconds, are Frank Wycheck and Kevin Dyson.

The other major professional sports franchise in the city is the National Hockey League’s Nashville Predators, a former expansion club from the late 1990s that picked its nickname from a finalist list that also included “Fury,” “Attack” and “Ice Tigers.”

The city once boasted a founding member of the National Women’s Football League, the Nashville Dream.

The state proudly claimed title to “the fastest woman in the world” when Tennessee State University’s Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in the same Olympics (1960). The volunteer state’s other all-time favorite quarterback is Peyton Manning of University of Tennessee.

Mariota will have to learn his music trivia, too, because there will be no time to visit the honky tonk bars that fill the famous Broadway strip in downtown Nashville. As long as he knows Roy Acuff is the “King of Country” and Chet Atkins is “Mister Guitar,” and appreciates names like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Skeeter Davis, Jimmy Dean, George Jones and Tanya Tucker, he’ll fit in just fine.

Sometime after studying the Titans playbook, there should also be an opportunity for a history lesson. It might be good to know that Tennessee lays claim to three U.S. presidents — Andrew Jackson, James Polk and Andrew Johnson — and that Jackson’s historic home “The Hermitage” has a driveway the shape of a guitar.

Tennessee may be in the south, but it was the last state to secede from the Union before the start of the Civil War and the first state readmitted. Nashville is home to great culture, too — a perfect replica of the Greek Parthenon has become a beautiful art museum downtown and explains the city’s nickname as the “Athens of the South.”

Marcus Mariota should have fun as Music City’s newest super celebrity — Go Titans!