'Jesus, girls and Marcus Mariota'
EUGENE — Sure, he comes from a well-known family, at least locally.
But until the last few days, you probably would not have come up with much if you had Googled “Charlie Pape.”
After all, the O’Hara Catholic School student is only 12 years old.
Now, you not only get reports from local and regional news outlets, like The Register-Guard and KEZI-TV and The Oregonian, you get blurbs from The New York Times and the Washington Post, USA Today and ESPN.
You get si.com and Yahoo Sports and Fox Sports and CBS Sports and The Associated Press and sports websites like Deadspin.
“We learned that Charlie Pape doesn’t do softballs,” someone posted on Deadspin on Sunday, the day after the Oregon Ducks clobbered the University of Colorado, 44-10, in a Pac-12 Conference football game at Autzen Stadium.
It was the final home game of the season for the third-ranked Ducks and their star quarterback, Marcus Mariota, who this season is the favorite to become the first player in UO history to win the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s top college football player.
And Charlie, if you haven’t heard by now, just wanted to know one thing from UO Coach Mark Helfrich at the postgame press conference: Is Mariota, a junior in athletic standing, coming back next year or going pro (as most believe he will do)?
And that led to a question right back at Charlie from an extremely bemused Helfrich, once the coach and everyone else in the room was finished laughing.
“What is the talk around school?” Helfrich asked. “What do you guys, how have you broken it down? What do you think he’ll do?”
And out came the comment that’ll have folks remembering Charlie Pape long after Mariota’s last season at Oregon, whether it’s this year or next.
“Well, there’s three things that go on at O’Hara Catholic — or four — ‘kay?” Charlie said.
“There’s Jesus. There’s girls. And there’s Marcus Mariota ...”
The guffaws inside the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, the UO’s posh football performance center, were at a fever pitch now, and all Helfrich could say, once he picked himself up off the lectern, was ... “Wow.”
The response from Charlie’s shocked dad, UO football booster Ryan Pape, who was sitting a few seats away?
“I am so sorry.”
But it was all in good fun.
And it’s garnered young Charlie some national celebrity as well as a lot of attention at school on Monday.
“Crazy,” said Tammy Conway, O’Hara’s principal. “As you can imagine, the kids around here are major Duck fans, but everyone is surprised by just how much attention.”
Charlie sat in Conway’s office on Monday morning and did a radio interview with Oregonian sports columnist John Canzano.
And what did he ask?
“A lot of the stuff you’re askin’,” Charlie said.
Asked if Charlie’s comment about O’Hara were true, Conway laughed and said: “I would say the Jesus part, for sure. We are a Catholic school. And the Marcus Mariota part. But the ‘girls’ part? I think that was just a middle school boy thing.”
Monday night, Charlie got to meet his hero in person at the football performance center. The two shook hands and talked football, and Mariota complimented Charlie on his fashion choices.
“I like the jersey,” Mariota said. (Charlie was wearing Mariota’s ubiquitous no. 8, and the quarterback even autographed it — right on the number.)
And this time, Charlie’s hero had a question himself: “Oh, so, how did you get into the press conference?” he asked.
Charlie, with his parents, Ryan and Jennifer, younger brother Henry, 9, and sister Kate, 6, there with him, smiled and explained that UO Senior Associate Athletic Director Jim Bartko, just for fun, ushered them in as they were on their way to the Ducks’ locker room.
Mariota was not there at the time but heard all about it Saturday night when he was having dinner at the Original Roadhouse Grill in Springfield with his parents, Toa and Alana Deppe-Mariota, of Hawaii.
His mother, checking her phone, noticed all the buzz about it online (it was trending on Twitter), Mariota said.
“I thought it was a fair question,” Mariota said. “It was so funny.”
But being listed third, behind “Jesus and girls”?
“It’s an honor,” he said. “It’s great to be a part of that list.”
And, no, Charlie did not ask Mariota directly what his future plans are.
“I didn’t want to put him on the spot,” he said afterward.
Oh, and what about that fourth thing everyone talks about at O’Hara that you never mentioned, Charlie?
“Everybody has asked me that,” said the kid who wants to play middle linebacker someday for his favorite pro team, the New Orleans Saints. “And I gotta say it’s ... that we’re gonna whup the Beavers!”
Ryan Pape, vice president of Pape Machinery in Eugene, the heavy equipment conglomerate his family has owned since 1938, said he had no idea his son was going to ask anything at the press conference.
His first thoughts when he heard it?
“I know that voice,” Ryan Pape said, “I couldn’t believe it.”
And when Charlie came back with “Jesus, girls and Marcus Mariota”?
“I thought, ‘This dog has left the porch.’”