Marcus Mariota meets with former teammate and current Bucs intern, Eric Dungy.
Marcus Mariota was prepared to meet many different Buccaneer representatives during his visit to team headquarters on Monday, but the last thing he expected to run into was a former Oregon teammate.
Yet that's exactly what happened when Mariota emerged from a meeting with General Manager Jason Licht at about 9:00 in the morning to find Eric Dungy waiting outside. Dungy played wide receiver for the Ducks from 2010-13 – overlapping with Mariota for those last three years – and is now serving an internship in the Buccaneers' Digital and Creative Services department, focusing on social media.
It was a nice surprise for Mariota, and the former teammates embraced before spending a little time talking about the Pro Day held on Oregon's campus last week. Count Dungy among those who believes Mariota's mental prowess will help him succeed on the NFL level.
"One thing that was impressive to me: Obviously, Oregon's offense isn't as deep as a pro-style offense but it's still very hard to learn initially because of the speed," said Dungy. "My redshirt freshman season was my first year of playing, and he was redshirting, and he picked up the offense really quickly. I was like, 'What?' It took me a whole year to get cool with it and he comes in during fall camp and gets it in a couple weeks.
"He's a hard-worker, too. My last year there, he took a freshman, Darren Carrington, under his wing and Darren had a really great year, especially in the Rose Bowl. You could see the work that Marcus put in with him coming to fruition."
Photos from Marcus Mariota's visit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at One Buc Place on March 16, 2015.
Dungy is also the son of former Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy, and his family has had the opportunity to get to know several members of Mariota's family. The younger Dungy recalls a Fourth of July trip to Lake Oswego in Oregon that brought a bunch of them together in the hometown of fellow Oregon player Tyson Coleman. As a friend, he may be a bit biased, but Dungy is just the latest to rave about Marcus Mariota, the person.
"The one thing that was really impressive to me is that he interacts with everybody on the team," said Dungy of his former teammate. "Some star players – not to point to anyone specifically – will only stick with other star players and have their own elite kind of crew. But he hangs out with walk-ons and equipment managers and everybody. I haven't met anybody who has had anything bad to say about him."
Tony Dungy is a welcome visitor to One Buccaneer Place and he has an additional excuse to drop by now that Eric is on the team's staff. It was no accident that he visited team headquarters on Monday, as it gave him a chance to catch up with both his son and the visiting quarterback. The elder Dungy shares his son's high opinion of Mariota and believes he has untapped potential as an NFL quarterback.
Mariota had an opportunity to demonstrate exactly that to Buccaneer officials during his visit on Monday. As it turned out, he also had the chance to meet up with a good friend.