Marcus Mariota visits Bucs, talks about NFL draft

Marcus Mariota 
Marcus Mariota 
Published March 17, 2015

TAMPA — Marcus Mariota says he would love to play for the Bucs. So it would follow that it's important to him to become the No. 1 overall pick, right?

Not necessarily, he said.

"You know, being the first pick to me, it's not a huge thing," Mariota said in an interview posted on the team's website during his visit Monday to One Buc Place. "I would love to play for the Bucs. But that being said, I think if you find the team that wants you, that's going to be the right team. I'm looking forward to kind of marketing myself and finding that team."

The Bucs also are considering Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who visited two weeks ago.

Mariota toured the facility and met with coach Lovie Smith, general manager Jason Licht, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian and members of the Glazer family, which owns the team.

He also bumped into a few familiar faces. Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy, whose son, Eric, was a teammate of Mariota's at Oregon and now works as an intern in the team's digital department, stopped by One Buc Monday. Dungy hired Smith as a linebackers coach in 1995 on his inaugural staff, and has compared Mariota's skill set to that of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"It's a blessing to be here today and I'm very thankful," Mariota, 21, said. "It'll be fun to get to know some of their coaches and see the facility."

Mariota's visit comes after Licht attended his pro day at Oregon last week, with Bajakian and director of player personnel Jon Robinson. The Bucs promoted Mariota's visit on social media with pictures and quotes, much as they did when Winston visited.

The trip provided a chance for Mariota, who rarely played under center in the Ducks' spread option offense, to demonstrate how much he understands about the NFL game.

"Of course, this is an opportunity to kind of show how much you know mentally," Mariota said. "You know, it's going to be one of those times where you get to kind of talk about football and I've been looking forward to it.

"And that's going to be huge. Again, it's an opportunity to kind of market yourself and show how much you know."

Mariota's humility is well documented and he is not as extroverted as Winston. But Mariota's response to whether it's important for him to go No. 1 overall was in contrast to what Winston said at the NFL scouting combine last month.

Winston said at the time: "It's important because I know how hard I've worked and it would be a privilege to get accepted by the Glazer family in Tampa. I know I have to gain their trust. I know I have to gain a lot of people's trust. But whatever happens, this is just my opportunity and I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity because this is what I dream of. I dream of being a Hall of Famer one day and I dream of being the face of someone's franchise."

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Winston, 21, is widely regarded as the more pro-ready quarterback but the Bucs will have a private workout with Mariota in April and have more time to spend with him before the NFL draft next month.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.