If you haven’t yet seen the Heisman trophy acceptance speech by Marcus Mariota, give yourself a moment of cheer and watch what real love looks like. He is living proof that real leaders are not born, but rather made through the grace of being loved. I live in Eugene, OR and college football is how we are known, if we are at all throughout the country. Phil Knight’s Nike has long made us the fashion statement of the league, with enough uniforms to outfit ten schools, but there is nothing like true leadership when it comes to a winning trajectory.

Listening to Marcus receive his award last night, which accompanied an entire sweep of awards he has won during this season, is a lesson into what makes greatness. It was a homage of gratitude to his fellow players, to his coaches “who gave him a chance,” to his community, to his fans and finally, in tears, to his family who have “sacrificed to give him and his brother every opportunity.” Not a word about his raw athleticism or the work ethic that he bestowed on our winning team this year.  Rather he went back to his roots, as the first Polynesian to win this kind of award, hoping that this victory will be one that inspires all of his tribe to strive for greatness.

Throughout the season, Marcus’ winning ways were never something he boasted or took for himself.  It has been such a pleasure to watch him because of his profound generosity, which in turn makes every guy on the team his best friend, willing to take a fall, a hit or go beyond their limits.  That is how real leaders do it… They do it to make everyone else successful, which is how he could say in all honesty that his coveted 25lb Heisman belonged to everyone on his team.

His first move on winning the award was to turn back and hug to his mother and father sitting behind him. They have been behind him, teaching him in his own words “humility and respect” since he was a small boy, and throughout all the years in high school when he warmed the bench behind another quarterback.  Marcus didn’t play until his senior year, but he also didn’t quit, didn’t give up.

When we look at leveling the playing field in academics and athletics in this country and we spend so much time rearranging in the hopes of creating equity- we spend futile dollars on trying to create equity in our school systems, rather than doing the real work of  raising up and stabilizing broken families. Marcus Mariota is a boy who has a lot to give the world, way more than his amazing football throwing arm.  He should wake us up to what we owe to all our children- raised in love, humility and respect – the sky is the limit.

Marcus, we are so proud to have had the opportunity to watch you blossom here in Eugene and you star will burn bright.  A deep bow of gratitude for the loving parents that gave the gift of their love to all of us.