Editor's note: This story initially ran on Titans Online in August 2016. Following the performance of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the national title game, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota talked about his affection for his home state of Hawaii. Mariota and Tagovailoa went to the same high school in Honolulu. This story on Mariota's unique 808 facemask has been updated.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota looks through his facemask, he sees more than you probably thought.
He hopes everyone back home in Hawaii sees the same thing when they look at him.
You see, there's a story behind Mariota's facemask. Look closely, and you can see the bars spell out '808." That's by design – his design.
"Hawaii's area code is 808, and the mask kind of spells that,'' Mariota said. "It is a representation of where I came from. And it is special. It is such a blessing to be able to wear it."
Marcus Ardel Taulauniu Mariota, in his third season with the Titans, is from Honolulu. He attended Saint Louis High School in Honolulu, and splits his time between Nashville, Hawaii and Oregon during his offseasons. Each year, a big group of supporters from Mariota's high school has traveled to Nashville to see the Titans, and Mariota, play.
Mariota wore a similar '808" facemask at Oregon after a Riddell representative from Hawaii asked him to customize one. Mariota and some of his college buddies came up with the design.
Mariota wanted to wear the "808" during his rookie season with the Titans, but the NFL didn't allow it.
Last year, the NFL cleared the mask. With the unique design, the outside bars look like the number 8, and the inside is blank, making it look like a zero.
"I'm so happy I can wear it again,'' Mariota said.
Teammates said they didn't noticed a change in facemask from his rookie year. Two extra bars were added to the mask Mariota wore in 2015.
"I would not notice that,'' offensive lineman Brian Schwenke said. "Heck, I don't even know what my facemask looks like, and I look through it every day."
Mariota said he knows, and that's what matters most.
He's hoping those back in Hawaii smile when they see it, too.
"I am just happy people back home can recognize it, and realize hopefully I am representing where I come from in the best light,'' Mariota said. "It means a lot to me."