Oregon's Marcus Mariota is viewed as the heavy favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this weekend. He's not the first Heisman winner to have emerged from relative obscurity in high school, but Mariota's uphill battle is more than just a failure to recognize talent.
A Hawaii native, Mariota was a casualty of geography. According to The Wall Street Journal, college coaches hate making the long trek to Hawaii. That meant only marginal interest for Mariota from college football's top division.
In the end, the quarterback only received one scholarship offer. So he signed on the dotted line and went to Oregon.
It's not that Hawaii is a state barren of any football talent. During the past five years, the island state has sent more than 50 recruits rated three stars or better to Division I programs on the mainland.
But those destinations tend to be on the West Coast -- East Coast coaching staffs see Hawaii as an even greater challenge, both in terms of traveling out to meet with recruits and in regards to enticing those athletes to move an extra few thousand miles across the country.
Programs like USC and UCLA tend to get the most mileage out of Hawaii as a recruiting hotbed, in part because the trip is short for both coaches, players and players' families.
Lineman are a particular hot product of Hawaii. Quarterbacks, not so much. And when coaches do make the trip, they can't exactly hit dozens of prospects at once.
In the end, it's a lot of time and resources invested into only a few possible recruits.
So recruiting Hawaii continues to serve as a high-risk gamble. But for Oregon, it's a gamble that has paid off dearly. And maybe other programs will think twice before conceding the talent blooming out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.