Guest Viewpoint: A letter to the University of Oregon football team
To The Men of Oregon past, present and future,
I signed my letter of intent to enroll at the University of Oregon in September of my senior year of high school. It was the only school I applied to. I toured campus during spring break of my junior year of high school and within five minutes I knew that this is where I wanted to spend my collegiate years. Not only does U of O have great academics, but great sports as well. Especially football. I grew up in a football family. I have been attending Raider games since I was in 4th grade. Football has always had a special place in my heart. I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my main criteria for the college I would be attending was that the school had to have a football team.
I spent Saturday nights in the fall of 2010 glued to the television watching Chip Kelly lead the team to our first appearance in the National Championship. I remember watching Darron Thomas throw touch down pass after touch town pass in a blow out game against Stanford. I remember watching LaMichael James run circles around USC. I remember watching the student section at Autzen be completely filled despite the cold weather and rain. You, The Men of Oregon, sold me on the school. The flashy uniforms, the speed, the excitement. The entire community coming together to support something so much bigger than themselves. I could not wait to be apart of that.
Although I was still about nine months away from walking onto the University of Oregon as an official student, the 2011 National Championship hurt. To lose by a field goal. What a way to go out. To get so close and come up short. But what a statement we made. To the entire country. That was only the beginning. People couldn’t ignore us anymore. Although I was disappointed in the loss, it only made me that much more excited to be in Eugene come fall for the 2011/2012 season.
The 2011/2012 season concluded with an upset loss to USC. The consolation prize: a trip to the Rose Bowl, which is nothing to complain about. DeAnthony Thomas was able to showcase his speed to the nation. Kiko Alonso recovered a fumble that shifted the momentum in our favor. I didn’t realize that Chip Kelly could jump that high. Wisconsin was unable to get the snap off in time and ran the clock out. Oregon won 45-38. In the words of Chip: It had been 95 years since you could say, Oregon Ducks, Rose Bowl Champions. The 2012/2013 season ended with an upset loss to Stanford at home. We would have gone to the National Championship most likely for a third year in a row if it weren’t for back to back November losses. And by the looks of how Notre Dame played against Alabama, I have full confidence to this day that we would have beaten them too. We ended the season with a win in the Fiesta Bowl. To be honest, I think DeAnthony won it for us during the first play of the game. The 2013/2014 season was a tough one. Marcus Mariota was the front runner for the Heisman and then he got hurt during our win against UCLA. We ended the season losing to both Stanford and another upset loss to a different opponent: Arizona.
And now, just as quickly as those seasons have come and gone, so has the 2014/2015 season. But this year was different. We beat Michigan State in typical Oregon fashion: second half team style. Probably Mark Helfrich’s best win since taking over as head coach. But then we lost to Arizona. Again. Most people thought we were done. Fans thought we were done. I even thought we were done. No Heisman. No playoff. But you all believed. Believed in each other. Believed in yourselves. Believed in the O. Believed in Mark and what you all could do post Chip Kelly era. We came back and we beat UCLA. Whether you guys were looking to make a statement or not, one was made and it was heard loud and clear all over CFB. We are Oregon and we are not going to let one game affect us. We beat Stanford, finally proving that we are physical. We beat Utah, despite injuries. We were able to redeem ourselves in the PAC12 Championship Game and routed Arizona, proving that this was the team we had been all along. You guys fought your way back to the top despite facing adversity and injury after injury and earned a spot in the first ever College Football Playoff. And in between the PAC12 Championship and the Rose Bowl, Oregon had its first Heisman trophy winner. Marcus, the entire U of O community could never repay you for all that you have given to this school. Your speech brought me, and almost everyone else watching, to tears. The way you carry yourself both on AND off the field is truly special. Thank you. And then, three weeks later, despite losing All-American corner back, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, we made a complete mockery of the defending national champions. We were able to bring home some nice hardware and won the 101st Rose Bowl Game. But this time the Rose Bowl wasn’t a consolation. It was only another step towards the ultimate goal: bringing Oregon its first National Championship Title.
I write this paragraph with a heavy heart because we all know how it ended. People in Eugene were not celebrating last night. The vibe on campus today is not a happy one. We were not able to finally be National Champions. But. We ARE 2015 Rose Bowl Champions. We may or may not win the Rose Bowl next year, but we will ALWAYS have a Heisman trophy winner forever cemented into our history. How fitting that #8 wins the 80th Heisman trophy and his home zip code is 808. It was destiny. We may have lost the National Championship, but last night was just a reminder that there is hope. We will one day win the title. Whether it’s next year, or in fifty years, our program is headed in the right direction.
This was my last football season as an undergraduate here at Oregon. I did not miss one regular season game at Autzen stadium and that’s something I am damn proud of. I officially attended my last undergraduate football game. I sat in the student section for the last time in my life. And several of you on the team will never play at Autzen again either. But you guys leave behind a legacy and a positive one at that. You all are a part of Oregon Football history. Thank you guys for the exciting Saturday nights in the fall under the lights in the cold and rain. Thank you guys for your hard work and determination. Thank you guys for leaving your all out there on the field game after game. My friend said that the hardest thing is being an Oregon fan. But the best thing is being an Oregon fan. Win or lose, I am now and forever will be, proud to be a duck. And you guys should be, too. I know deep in my heart that one day we will win a National Title, and I cannot wait for that day. Thank you, Men of Oregon. For everything. You guys are champions. Because champions believe in themselves before anyone else does. And you guys believe. And you always have. And you always will. Because you, are The Men of Oregon.
This guest viewpoint was contributed by U of O Senior Sophie Hodges