From Thanksgiving games to Autzen, the Dye brothers battle together as Ducks

Like many American families on Thanksgiving, the Dye family gathered outside their house in Norco, California, for a game of touch football. It was the annual Dye family Turkey Bowl.

All the siblings joined: Anthony (Tony), Jordan, Troy, Travis and little sister Jamie. Even Grandma grabbed a whistle and played referee.

But unlike most families, the Dye family used their Turkey Bowl talents to propel themselves into standout high school and collegiate football careers.

From playing in the neighborhood streets to the field at Norco High School, Travis will join Troy in his first game as a Duck at Autzen Stadium in this weekend’s spring game.

For the first time since high school, Troy, a junior linebacker, and Travis, a freshman running back, are playing on the same field together. Their careers at Oregon will give them the opportunity to grow as football players and as brothers.

“It’s cool to be back together with him,” Troy said. “At this level, I mean, I understand it’s a business and you gotta go out there and play against him and play hard, but at the end of the day that’s my brother, so it’s really fun.”

This upcoming season will mark Troy’s third with the Ducks after graduating Norco a semester early to enroll at Oregon in the winter of 2016. During his first year, he became the first true freshman to start as linebacker in 38 years, while also becoming the first freshman to earn double-digit tackles in a first appearance as a Duck since the 1996 season. He had a stellar sophomore season, where he started in all 13 games and led the team with 107 total tackles.

Travis followed in Troy’s footsteps, enrolling early this winter to become a Duck and play with his brother.

“It’s something that I have been dreaming of for a long time,” Travis said. “It’s a big thing to come out here in the D1 level and play with your older brother.

“It feels just like how it was in high school. It’s just, you got Troy on your side, always. … I’m ready to get back to work with him.”

But it’s not just Troy and Travis who have played collegiate football.

Their father, Mark, played at San Jose State. Tony, the oldest Dye brother, followed by playing for the UCLA Bruins, and he had a short-lived career in the NFL, playing a season for Cincinnati — scoring a touchdown in his lone game for the Bengals — and briefly played with the Oakland Raiders. Jordan currently plays for Sterling College as a wide receiver for the NAIA team in Kansas.

“Football is just our life, and I don’t really know anything different from it,” Jamie, the youngest Dye and the only sister, said.

Running back Travis Dye runs after a catch during spring practice. (Ben Green/Emerald)

One of the last games that Troy and Travis played together before Oregon was a family affair. Jamie was on the sideline cheerleading for Norco. Tony was Norco’s defensive coordinator and Mark was a coach on the team. Their mother, Danna, was a trainer for the rival school, the Centennial Huskies.

Whether at Norco or in Eugene, Mark and Danna have supported the family’s passion for football by attending every home game.

With Travis now at Oregon, traveling to the different schools will be a lot more convenient for the parents — yet having a Dye on the field at all times will force Mark to plan his spectatorship accordingly.

“I got to figure out how to get my popcorn,” Mark said. “I used to go get my popcorn and go to the bathroom when the offense was on the field. So, it’s gonna be a little harder now.”

Their family’s commitment to supporting them has only intensified both Travis and Troy’s passion for the game. According to Troy, it’s this strong drive to learn and improve that makes Travis stand out on the team.

“He loves the game,” Troy said. “He has a lot of passion for the game, a lot of energy, a lot of juice that he brings in at every practice. He’s out there having fun, jumping around, energetic, trying to get the running backs going. He really enjoys the game, and so, I mean, I enjoy playing with him.”

Travis was the first commit in the Ducks’ 2018 recruiting class after choosing Oregon over top-rated programs like Michigan, Texas A&M, Boston College and UCLA. As a kid, Travis imagined himself playing for the Oregon State Beavers, finding inspiration from running back Jacquizz Rodgers. But now, they are both glad he stuck with Oregon.

“When I got here, he kinda just put all his orange shit away, so we moved past it,” Troy said. “We Ducks now and that’s fun.”

Troy and Mark are proud of Travis’ decision to stay despite former head coach Willie Taggart’s decision to leave the program.

“I knew he was not going to just back away,” Troy said. “That’s not how we were raised, never to run from a challenge. So, he was ready. He was really locked in and excited to continue and come in and wear the green and yellow.”

Mark added: “I think one of the things that he realized was that he was committing to the school and the program, not really specifically to people or a specific coach.”

Travis said watching Troy’s experience at Oregon helped prepare him for the intensity of playing college football.

“I learned real quick that you have to grow up real fast,” Travis said.

The brothers said that having each other on the same team only pushes them to get better — especially since they usually face-off against each other in practice drill and scrimmages. Head coach Mario Cristobal was impressed with their ability to remain locked-in against the other brother.

“I haven’t seen Troy slow down in hitting him, and I haven’t seen Travis slow down to try to get tackled,” Cristobal said. “They’re competitive. It’s in their DNA.”

Troy and Travis may both be “T. Dye,” forcing coaches and teammates to refer to them by their jersey number, but that doesn’t mean they’re the similar on the field.

“We are two different types of people,” Troy said. “He’s a little bit more outgoing on the field. I’m a little bit quieter. But it’s kind of cool to see him across the field and to know that that’s my brother over there. He made it, and he’s just here having fun.”

Cristobal is no stranger to the experience.

“I played with my brother in college together, so I know what a special thing that is,” Cristobal said. “To have them here and at the level of talent and the level of player that Troy has been, and Travis is going to be, it’s exciting times for us.”

With the spring game being Travis’ first game at Autzen, Troy is looking forward to sharing that one-of-a-kind moment with him as they walk through the tunnel.

“Hopefully it will be way more than he ever expected, and we can enjoy that moment together,” Troy said.

Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni

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Maggie Vanoni

Maggie Vanoni

Maggie is a senior sports reporter for the Emerald covering football, volleyball, men's basketball, men's tennis, track and field and softball. She is a lover of adventures, the Oregon Coast, writing and Ben and Jerry's. Follow her on Twitter at @maggie_vanoni and reach her at [email protected]