Mariota's pro football journey officially begins today at NFL Dr - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Mariota's pro football journey officially begins today at NFL Draft

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Marcus Mariota's professional football career will almost certainly begin at the 2015 NFL Draft Chicago on Thursday, but the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner doesn't plan on watching it in the Windy City.

Watch Mariota's NFL Draft party:

on a desktop computer: http://hine.ws/hnnspecialw
on a mobile device: 
http://hine.ws/hnnspecialm

Instead, Mariota plans on celebrating with the people -- and in the place -- that helped transform him from high school standout to pro football prospect.

Dozens of Mariota's friends and family members will attend an invitation-only celebration at the Saint Louis Alumni Clubhouse in Mo'ili'ili today, with the former Crusader and his parents among those slated to attend. Once coverage of the draft begins, it's unlikely the group will have to endure a long wait before learning where Mariota will play professional football.

For months, draft experts have predicted that Mariota would be the second player taken in the draft. following the selection of presumed top-overall pick Jameis Winston, who won the Heisman in 2013 while at Florida State University. ESPN's leading draft analysts, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, Jr., both believe Mariota to be the second-best quarterback prospect in the 2015, while others have questioned that ranking.

ESPN's Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden, who won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said Tuesday he thought Mariota was the best player in the draft, saying he was "like Russell Wilson, only he is 6-4." Tampa Bay owns the first overall selection in Thursday's draft.

The NFL Network's leading draft analyst, Mike Mayock, also believes Mariota to be the top quarterback in the draft.

Still, most believe Tampa Bay will select Winston, not Mariota, with the first pick in this afternoon's draft. That only increases speculation on what will happen with the second pick, which appears to be the most likely draft position for Mariota.

Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said Tuesday that he would be willing to alter his team's offensive schemes in 2015 to better incorporate Mariota, should he end up being the team's pick. The Titans hold the second-overall pick in Thursday's draft, and NBC's ProFootballTalk reported Thursday morning that team ownership coveted Mariota as a potential franchise quarterback.

Many in NFL circles believe that the Titans may actually be for sale, and a quarterback like Mariota who could serve as the face of a franchise may help increase value to a potential deal.

But speculation continued to build Thursday morning that the Titans were considering trading the pick to another team. NBC Sports said early Thursday that reports of a multi-team deal involving the Philadelphia Eagles were gaining steam, claiming it was "becoming harder not to imagine" the Eagles trading to obtain Mariota if Winston is chosen by Tampa Bay.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly has said he was unwilling to "mortgage the future" in order to obtain Mariota, but Kelly recruited the Saint Louis School alum out of high school, coached him at Oregon, and is known to covet him as a pro signal caller.

Previous rumors indicated that the Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers may also be interested in a trade that affords them the opportunity to draft Mariota.

Regardless of which team drafts Mariota, his representatives tell Hawaii News Now that he plans to leave Honolulu at some point Thursday evening, after the draft, to attend a press conference on Friday.

The 2015 NFL Draft officially begins at 2:00 p.m. in Hawaii. Once Mariota is selected, we're told the quarterback plans on doing national media interviews with the NFL's broadcast partners before holding a local media press conference in Mo'ili'ili.

Hawaii News Now will livestream Mariota's press conference at HawaiiNewsNow.com and on the Hawaii News Now mobile app.

Stay tuned for continuing coverage of the 2015 NFL Draft beginning at 5 p.m. on KGMB and KHNL. 

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