With five and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter of Oregon’s 38-35 victory over UCLA, the Ducks sideline cleared. The players poured onto the field. Not for a brawl, not to congratulate a big play, rather to kneel beside a fallen teammate. Five-star freshman linebacker Noah Sewell layed on the field, face up toward the lights, clutching his lower leg. It seemed the air, the atmosphere, had been sucked from Autzen Stadium.
Ohana: The Hawaiian word for family. The perfect term to describe the culture of the Oregon Ducks football program under head coach Mario Cristobal.
The meaning of family is so vital to the Ducks’ approach that the players wore it onto the field that night. Intertwining layers of green, black and grey fabric on their jerseys and crisp, detailed markings on their helmets represented much more than an unprecedented look.
Oregon football partnered with Sig Zane Designs, a designer based in Hilo, Hawaii, on a 2-year project to pay tribute to their many players and coaches of Hawaiian, Samoan and Polynesian descent.
Eugene has become an extremely popular landing spot for Polynesian and Hawaiian athletes. Whether it be Haloti Ngata and Marcus Mariota in past years, or Penei and Noah Sewell among those in more recent years, Polynesian culture has been a constant staple of the Oregon football family.
“Ohana is really important, but it’s not just about only the people in the room,” said the narrator in the GoDucks uniform release video. “It’s also about those who came before us, and those who will come after us, in the future. And really that idea of family, whether it’s blood or not blood. It’s coming together and moving as one.”
Central to the ohana theme is the idea of the voyager: the one who travels from far and wide to become part of a newfamily. For many of the Ducks’ players, this word embodies their reality. Athletes from all corners of the country, and even the world, converging in Eugene to become a part of it.
According to the GoDucks uniform release video, every detail on the ohana uniform says something of the voyager. The crossing pattern on the arm sleeve is a symbol of unity. The shark teeth on the front of the jersey, spanning the whole width of the collar are a show of toughness.
Every detail has meaning, just as every player provides one more piece in the team’s impenetrable armor.
The uniforms, as well as their message, drew eyes from around the nation as the Ducks took the field last Saturday, including those of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a former football player of Polynesian descent.
"Love this look and power behind its meaning. Culture,” Johnson tweeted. “Well done team and as always, to my former Miami teammate and Oregon football head coach, Mario Cristobal - stay strong, brother #theu #goducks #mana.”
As the Ducks move forward, navigating this strange season, they’ll no doubt be faced with difficulties, trials and tribulations throughout. Their values of family and the journey of the voyager will remain, ensuring unity even in the rockiest of times.