Next stop for Morgan Mahalak: Oregon


Next stop for Morgan Mahalak: Oregon

Next fall, Morgan Mahalak will be playing quarterback for Oregon, one of the most high-powered offenses and top collegiate football programs in the nation. But it wasn’t like the Marin Catholic (Calif.) High School star had an easy path to Eugene.

Before he entered his freshman year of high school, Mahalak wasn’t even sure if he wanted to play quarterback, much less football. “I’m still kind of new to it,” Mahalak said. “I’ve always had a good arm, throwing the football around in the front yard with my parents. But it was never until high school until I started playing quarterback. When I played football when I was younger, I played a little running back, a little receiver, a little quarterback. Football wasn’t really big on my priority list when I was younger, to be honest. It was always kind of baseball and then it just kind of switched to football.”

Mahalak said his freshman coach at Marin, Ken Peralta, was a driving force behind him eventually developing into one of the top quarterbacks in the country. “Coach Peralta, he kind of instilled that love for football that I have,” Mahalak said. “He was a great coach and a great guy to look up to. He taught me a lot about football and a lot about life. He was kind of the one who kick-started it all for me.”

Considering he’s going to a premier football school like Oregon, you’d guess Mahalak would have been piling up big numbers at QB since his freshman season. Guess again.

Even though he verbally committed to the Ducks last May, this is the first season the 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior has started for Marin Catholic, a powerhouse program year in and year out. As a junior, Mahalak mostly watched from the sidelines as Jared Goff played quarterback for the Wildcats. Goff is now the starting QB at Cal.

“It wasn’t too frustrating, just because I knew that’s how it was,” Mahalak said. “As a freshman, I kind of learned how good Jared was and how it was going to be following him. There was a lot of talk from other people about how I should leave, transfer to another school where I could play, all of that. But I really just love this school that I attend so it was never a question for me, staying or leaving. I kind of just had faith in the process and hoped it would work out. Thankfully it did, and at the same time I got the chance to learn from a great quarterback. So it was kind of a win-win situation for me.”

Impressive numbers

Mahalak has been showing he was worth the wait. Marin Catholic is a perfect 10-0 following Saturday’s 49-14 win over Eureka in the second round of the playoffs. For the season, he’s completed 116 of 194 passes for 2,201 yards and 31 touchdowns while being intercepted just three times.

“I really try not to look at the stats,” Mahalak said. “The numbers that I have are just kind of a reflection of our defense doing a great job and our offensive line giving me time to throw the ball and our skill guys making plays. The stats are all kind of based off team stuff. What I try to look at is if we’re winning ballgames, which we’ve been able to do this season and then turnovers, which I’ve had I think four. We’re doing a pretty good job in that sense.”

Considering the Wildcats have outscored their opposition 522-87 this season, Mahalak hasn’t had to do much running. But he is more than capable of tucking the football away and taking off, as evidenced by his 430 yards on 54 carries and 6 TD’s.

“It just kind of keeps the defenses on their toes,” Mahalak said. “They don’t really know what to expect with the dual threat. When things kind of break down I’d like to think I have the ability to make plays and that’s kind of hard for the defense. It’s a lot of fun to be in the position I’m in.”

Mahalak gives NFA much of the credit for his rapid rise to an Elite 11 quarterback, particularly his work with coaches Will Hewlett and Mansur Ivie. “Will Hewlett has been huge in my development,” Mahalak said. “I say all the time I don’t think I’d in the position I’m in if it wasn’t for him. He’s been awesome. And more than anything, it’s kind of been like a family with NFA. We’re all kind of like brothers, all the quarterbacks, and Will’s like another father figure to me. I can’t say enough about Will, Coach Ivie, and NFA. They do an awesome job.”

While he still has some unfinished business to take care of in the playoffs, Mahalak is excited about his future at Oregon. He chose the Ducks over a number of big-time NCAA programs.

“It’s exiting,” Mahalak said. “It’s hard not to watch them on game day and see what they’re doing. The program has been doing great things the last few years and I’m very excited about that. You kind of wish you were there already, but we have a lot left to do for our team here and that’s where my focus is. With Oregon, we’ll kind of get there when we get there. But it is exciting at the same time.”

Even though he played only sparingly behind Goff last season, Mahalak’s QB skills and physical ability were well known around the country. When the Ducks offered a scholarship, he knew where he was heading.

“It was an interesting process,” Mahalak said. “There are ups and downs and all that. It was hard at first because I wasn’t really used to it, all of the recruiting. But there were a lot of people around me that were really helpful, including Will and my head coach and Jarrod, who was going through it himself. The whole Oregon thing, I have family there and I’ve always kind of been a Ducks fan my whole life. Obviously, they’ve been a top program the past five or so years. When they came knocking it was kind of like a big deal, big mighty Oregon, but then you kind of get to know the coaches and it’s a family. It’s a family there and I immediately felt part of that family. My commitment was pretty easy once I got the offer and I feel thankful and blessed every single day.”

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Scot Gregor is an award-winning sportswriter for the Chicago Daily Herald. In addition to writing about Big 10 and Notre Dame football, Gregor has also covered the White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and college basketball. He grew up in Pittsburgh and watched the Steelers rise to prominence in the 1970s. Gregor has a B.S. degree in Journalism from Ohio University