LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A couple of drives into Thursday Night Football and Lopaka Lawther's phone was blowing up. Because Marcus Mariota was piloting the Silver and Black.
"I noticed he went in and I was like, whoa! This is awesome," said Lawther, an owner of Makai Island Grill, which has four locations in the Las Vegas valley.
And even though this was the first time Mariota had taken a snap in 2020, he came out hot.
"He played his heart out. He was fighting for everything," said Lawther.
Lawther moved to Las Vegas, which has affectionately been dubbed the ninth island, four years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii, where he and his family lived just down the street from where Mariota played high school ball.
"Coming right out of St. Louis, that school has produced a ton of quarterbacks and it's just been awesome seeing these guys, local guys representing Hawaii," said Lawther.
He said Mariota represents the state well.
"If you've ever met him, he's just a nice guy. Everybody talks so highly of him and he's super humble. We're super proud. The Hawaiian people are super proud," Lawther said.
That pride for Mariota goes beyond his Hawaiian roots and into his ethnic roots as well. Like Mariota, Liberty High School senior Jared Tufele is also half Samoan, half white.
"I get really inspired when I see a Polynesian going to the NFL because it's like, dang, I can make it still," said Tufele.
Tufele won a state championship at Liberty last year and is planning to play in college next year. But with Derek Carr in doubt for next week's bout with the Dolphins, Tufele and ninth island fans are pumped for what could be considered the Aloha Bowl next weekend - Marcus Mariota versus Tua Tagovailoa. Two starting quarterbacks from the same high school in Hawaii… now going head to head in the NFL.
"Just because Mariota has more NFL experience, I gotta go Mariota," said Tufule, of his pick for next week's potential match-up.
And Makai Island Grill's three - soon to be four - locations are putting their money on Mariota too with a post-game day promotion called Makai Mariota Madness.
Wear Raiders gear, get a free drink or ice cream. But for Mariota himself, the deal is even sweeter.
"Marcus is free to come to eat any time he wants," Lawther said, with a laugh. "We'd love to have him come."