The late 1990’s to the early 2000’s were a very memorable time in more recent Oregon football history. During the Akili Smith and Joey Harrington eras, many other Oregon greats are remembered for taking the success of the early 90’s-1995 Rose Bowl squad to higher levels. Among the many heroes to remember a little over a decade ago is one who made a strong impact and sincere contribution to the 2000-2001 back-to-back Pac-10 champion Ducks He has remained in Oregon and has taken his success on the field to his life today. Fishduck is proud to welcome 1998-2002 Safety/Rover Rasuli Webster.
RASULI’S PRE-OREGON DAYS:
Webster was recruited prior to the 1998 season. Besides Oregon, he was also recruited by other schools, including California, Washington State, Arizona, and Fresno State. Webster recalls the process which led him to be a Duck. “Being recruited as a Duck: I always remember the Ducks losing when I was growing up (in Los Angeles.) Going to the Coliseum and seeing guys like Rodney Peete, Brad Johnson, and Curtis Conway always beating up on the Ducks! You were like ‘who are the Ducks?!’ I got my first letter in 1997, and I’m like ‘well, maybe I’ll give it a shot.’ It was kind of a crapshoot, but suddenly I knew I was my other options wouldn’t work. I was going to Oregon, or Oregon; that was it!”
What was the key factor in choosing Oregon?
The location was great, fans were great, people were awesome on my trip, coaches showed me a great time and were upfront about how things were to go if I were to come to Oregon. A good inviting feeling, made you feel like a family. Given I was leaving my family, I wanted to be part of another away from home.
RASULI’S EARLY CAREER:
After redshirting during the 1998 season, Rasuli began to see time as a backup as starting in 1999. Backing up great upperclassmen like Brandon McLemore and Michael Fletcher, Webster’s athleticism and hard work paid off early to prepare for time as a starter. Academically, Webster was very motivated to be a successful student-athlete. “Adapting to college was pretty straightforward, you just have to get it done. The older guys taught me to show up, get work done, and how to take care of myself. I always saw school as a good challenge; and when I got injured the 2000 off-season, my challenge was to see how high my GPA could be.”
What do you remember about your first on-field experience?
It was the 1999 Spring Game. First chance for the rookies to shine a little bit. Me and Darien Latimer met, and that was my first wakeup to the whole College Football experience and how fast the game went. It wasn’t way out of my control, but much faster than high school. I learned at that moment I could do it.
TALK ABOUT YOUR FIRST BIG GAME EXPERIENCE:
Getting in a game, I see Brandon (McLemore) coming off the field; and I was his backup. I thought “where’s he going?” He came to sideline with bad hand, and I was like “someone needs to get in the game for you.” Well, the coaches suddenly yelled at me to get in the game! I can’t even find my helmet! But, I did, and coach Aliotti and Gregory gave me the call. I called a corner blitz (which you’re never supposed to do.) Steve Smith blitzed. Thank goodness he was able to hit the QB, the ball pops up, and falls right in my hands. I was in such shock, didn’t know what to do. That was my best “OH CRAP” moments of early college football!
RASULI BECOMING A STARTER:
In the third game of his sophomore season (2000), Webster took over as starting free safety. He would finish each remaining game as a starter on defense. In 2000, he ranked #4 in total defense for Oregon with 59 tackles (39 unassisted) and 2 interceptions; as Oregon tied for the Pac-10 title and ranked among the best in defense. “We self-policed,” Webster recalls. We held everybody accountable to the objective to do what we said–which is, win the Pac-10 championship. Joey (Harrington) was our ‘General’ but at the same time on the defensive side I think we were the backbone. Such as holding our corners to crazy expectations.” Rasuli played a key role in the memorable “Desert Miracle” Double Overtime victory over Arizona State, as his defense on Tight End Todd Heap forced the final two-point conversion attempt to fall incomplete, securing the victory for Oregon. He also played a role in stopping Texas on the final drive of the Holiday Bowl to secure a 35-30 Holiday Bowl Victory and a then-best record in Oregon History.
WEBSTER’S UPPERCLASS-FINAL DAYS:
In 2001, Webster moved over to Rover. This position, unique to the Oregon defense, was created when all-star Michael Fletcher was starting for Oregon. Webster then took over the successful run Oregon has had then, and since then, at the rover position. (Instead of the traditional strong safety, the Rover is a much more versatile position.) Webster’s biggest attributes were his athleticism and versatility. He was very successful with the move, and remained the starter as a junior and senior. Webaster ranked fifth in total tackles in 2001, and was part of a remarkable secondary squad that won many tight games for Oregon. The saying “Defenses win championships” was proved by Webster and company as Oregon went 11-1 and rolled to beat Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl. Oregon’s corners struggled in 2002 with two true freshmen, yet Webster stood his ground and was a key factor in keeping the secondary from total collapse. Fifth in tackles in 2002 as a senior, for 69 tackles, Webster finished his career strong despite the difficult end to the 2002 season. Oregon did have a winning record in all four seasons of his career as he finished with 183 tackles (8-20 for loss,) 2-10 QB sacks, five interceptions, and 13 breakups/deflections.
Following post-career surgery, Webster temporarily moved to back to California. However, he soon would relocate back to Oregon and settle in the Portland area where he began work in the child development field through the YMCA. Soon after, 90’s Oregon great Reggie Jordan assisted him in finding a job at a successful Portland property management firm, where he has moved up the ladder. Starting as in APAR and in 2005, he moved his way up to management where he is now in charge of conciere and hospitality; overseeing 26 workers in housekeeping & cleaning. To this day, Rasuli Webster stays loyal to Oregon football, as he continues the leadership he learned at Oregon at work and coaching with other past Oregon stars at Jefferson High School in Portland.
FINAL MESSAGE FOR FANS FROM RASULI: “Just keep riding with the Ducks. We’ve seen the program go through the losingest times and the winningest times. Just keep your support and consistency, and keep the traditions that we helped grow. I’m always going to bleed green! GO DUCKS!“
TRIVIA: Webster started out #22 and finished as #22. However, he was #25 in 1998-1999 for the sake of legendary Reuben Droughns. Droughns entered in 1998, having previously worn #2 at old school. #2 was in use at Oregon by Tony Hartley. #22 was first selected by Webster, but out of kindness, he switched to #25 for his true & redshirt freshmen years.