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ESPN says Mariani was the best in the AFC South for the decade

Havre legend Marc Mariani named to the AFC South All-Decade Team

 

Last updated 7/1/2020 at 9:51am

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Former Havre Blue Pony Marc Mariani returns a kickoff against the Dallas Cowboys back in 2010. Mariani made the Pro Bowl that season, while breaking multiple Tennessee records for kick returns. Recently, Marc was named to the ESPN AFC South All-Decade Team.

Marc Mariani lived the fairy tale. Small town kid makes it in the NFL. It’s the stuff legends are made of.

Now, Mariani’s career is starting to be recognized for what it was, too — one that was special and productive.

This past week, Mariani was named to the ESPN AFC South All-Decade Team for the 2010s. The team was voted on by reporters who specifically cover the AFC South for ESPN’s NFL Nation.

“It is an honor to be recognized by something like this,” Mariani said via phone Tuesday. “It gave me a chance to look back and reflect on my career, and to again, know that it was such a blessing to have the career I was able to have in the NFL. So, to be named to a list like that, it’s truly an honor.”

Drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2009, the former Havre Blue Pony three-sport All-Stater, and two-time FCS All-American at the University of Montana, Mariani earned Pro Bowl honors in his rookie year after breaking the Titans’ record for return yards in a season.

He played for the Titans from 2010 to 2013 and in 2016, spending the 2014 and 2015 seasons with the Chicago Bears in the NFC North.

In his rookie season, Mariani made the NFL All-Rookie Team while racking up 1,859 return yards, and taking a kickoff against the Denver Broncos 98 yards for his first career touchdown. He also took a punt back 87 yards against the Washington Redskins later that season. In, all Mariani scored three career return TDs, while finishing among the NFL leaders in both kickoff returns and punt returns in three separate seasons.

Mariani’s career was interrupted by a gruesome leg injury in a preseason game, but he came back strong playing for the Bears and Titans again before retiring two years ago.

Of course, Mariani got his start as a three-sport athlete for the Blue Ponies, before moving on to play football for the Montana Grizzlies. In Missoula, Mariani started to make a splash as a kick returner his sophomore season, He tied the school record with three punt returns for touchdowns, a mark he shares with Levander Segars and Jerry Louie-McGee, the latter of whom matched that record during the 2019 season.

As a wide receiver, Mariani piled up huge numbers his final two years as a Grizzly, helping Montana to back-to-back national championship game appearances. His 3,018 career receiving yards was a school record until Jamaal Jones broke that in 2015, and his 1,479 receiving yards in 2009 topped the school's single-season record book until Samori Toure broke that in 2019.

“Again, I was just so blessed,” Mariani said. “To come out of Montana and to have the Titans recognize me and give me the opportunity as a return man. I am just so fortunate to have had that opportunity. And I’m so thankful the Titans drafted me and set me up to go on one hell of a ride.”

 
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