The late 90’s – early 2000’s was a revolutionary turning point in Oregon football history, and especially renowned for the great rushers the program featured. Oregon fans have seen many legends run the ball over the past two decades. From 1999-2002, a talented tailback made a special difference in the Oregon backfield/special teams as a quiet and successful backup star. Fishduck proudly welcomes unsung hero Allan Amundson.
Allan Amundson came to Oregon in 1999 from San Rafael, California, as a last-minute signer. From the start, Oregon coaches and players saw his will and determination as he came to fall camp and leaped ahead of several season veterans on the depth chart.
- What made you come to Oregon?
It was a last-minute decision. A unique story: there were several other schools that were interested, but for what ever reason stopped calling. Oregon had called, but wanted me to play corner (I’d been RB all through High School.) West Virginia was first to offer a scholarship, yet they stopped calling after I was getting ready for a visit. My first visit was to Wisconsin. They offered me a scholarship, but I had a visit with Washington and wasn’t ready to commit to my first visit. Washington got Neuhiesel and stopped calling me, then Wisconsin called and said two RBs got the scholarships. Then I visited San Jose State (close to home,) and liked the Criminal Justice program. I verbally committed to SJSU, faxed in paperwork, but a page was missing. Coincidentally the day they faxed the missing page back, Oregon again called and offered a visit. I took the trip there and they offered a RB spot. I committed to Oregon and here I am. It was a blessing — if that page had come in I’d have had a different life; everything happens for a reason.
ALLAN’S EARLY DAYS AS A DUCK
Given Oregon’s talent in the backfield, it isn’t everyday that a true freshman tailback sees playing time, let alone high rankings on the depth chart. Yet Amundson’s hard work and determination from his arrival earned him third place on the depth chart to begin the 1999 season. Amundson would pass upperclassmen Jason Cooper and Jerry Brown. He began with a bang, earning playing time in only the second game of the season. Furthermore, his very first touch was a touchdown. Late in the home opener over UTEP, Amundson got the carry and ran in from two yards out.
“My first carry was a touchdown. I couldn’t believe it. I’m in the game, a true freshman, and I scored a touchdown (not a big one, just a 2-yard sweep, but it’s exactly what I wanted and here it was!) Then I started to get into kickoff returns and was successful on those returns as well.”
Amundson’s career was off to a flying start on-field, but weeks later school would start and deliver a challenge. Amundson recalls the intensity of the whole college transition:
“For me, it was hard keeping it all in line (meetings, practice, tutoring sessions, etc.). In high school you have help, now you’re in college and it’s ALL on you. I wasn’t organized my freshman year. If you miss ANYTHING (class, meetings, tutoring sessions) you must do what’s called “a 6:30” where you meet Coach Rad that time Tuesday/Thursday and run together ten sprints on the field. Doing that in college is hard that early. There was a point I was missing one thing or another every week, and I always had “a 6:30″ every Tuesday & Thursday! It took time to work the way out.”
Soon after, disaster struck for the freshman. The legendary Reuben Droughns was injured in the fifth game of the season against Washington; Amundson stepped into fill the void, only to suffer a season-ending ankle injury. Furthermore, it was one game too late in the season for a medical redshirt, and Amundson was unable to finish the successful 1999 run for the Sun Bowl. However, he finished as team’s fifth leading rusher and worked his way up the ladder during the next year.
WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU (or your career) MAKES YOU STRONGER: This was true for Amundson, as he became a stronger man through adversity sustained in 1999 and returned as a very successful sophomore in thele 2000 season. In 2000, impressive newcomer Maurice Morris replaced Droughns, limiting Amundson’s playing time. However, being the second-string to Morris allowed Amundson lots of playing time that year, and he saw playing time each game. In addition, he also picked up where he left off on kickoff returns, becoming a starting returner again. His returns included a 44 yard return in the season opener over Nevada. In 2000, Oregon had a successful 10-2 run and Pac-10 co-championship.
Amundson led the team in rushing over Idaho that year, and rushed 14 times for positive yardage and a touchdown run in the impressive home defeat of co-champion Washington. Oregon had many unforgettable come-from-behind victories led by Joey Harrington, including the “Desert Miracle” comeback thriller at Arizona State. Unsung hero Amundson was a huge factor in the win, rushing for 14 times for 41 yards, 98 yards in kickoff returns, and the winning touchdown in the second OT to give Oregon its first lead of the game. He also averaged 9.6 yards the following week in another overtime thriller at Washington State. In the Holiday Bowl, Amundson was a key factor as Oregon’s second leading rusher, having a run to set up a touchdown of 36 yards to average 6 yards/carry.
Amundson finished 2000 runner-up in rushing to Morris, and third place in all-purpose yardage behind legends Morris and receiver Keenan Howry. Only five players scored more touchdowns than Amundson, all starters.
TWO STARS IN FRONT, STAR SHINES IN OTHER WAYS
In 2001, Onterrio Smith arrived at Oregon. Amundson saw less time at tailback in 2001 as Smith & Morris battled to each gain 1,000 yard seasons. Nevertheless, he found alternate ways to shine. Passionate about kickoffs returns, his persistence paid as he was a huge part of Oregon’s way to #2 nationally and outright Pac-10 title in their 2001 campaign. He finished the year 13th nationally in kickoff returns, fourth in the Pac-10, and FIRST PLACE among Oregon returnees for 385 yards to average of 25.5 per return and a long of 62. He earned co-special teams player of the week against USC (along with game-winning kicker Jared Seigel) by returning kickoffs for 61 and 62 yards in the 24-22 thriller. He played a huge part in the Fiesta Bowl victory over Colorado with huge kickoff returns.
In 2002, Senior Amundson had another successful year as a backup behind Onterrio Smith. He again led the team in kickoff yardage with 27 for nearly 600 yards. He saw the most playing time of his career and finished second place in rushing after Smith.
ASIDE FROM THE FIELD:
- Who were your roommates or the team mates you spent the most time hanging out with? What did you do together most?
Me, Kenny Washington, Jason Fife, and Dan Klein all lived together. At one point me and Jason shared the garage! In the winter it was FREEZING, but as a college kid it’s cheap! We were all packed in this house, but had to take what we could get. Memories with those guys were amazing; those are the guys I’m closest with now. When Halo came out, we had the hugest Halo competitions among each other. I almost didn’t graduate because of Halo! We also threw some decent parties (until EPD found out!) I would cram for tests/papers because of that, but those times were awesome in that house with those guys.
- If you could change any one thing about your time playing for Oregon, what would it be?
I would have been a corner at Oregon. I never would’ve thought that, but I liked playing defense more than offense. Had I more experience at Oregon as a corner, I may have had a better shot in the NFL. With the little experience I had, I did okay. Oregon recruited me as a corner in the beginning, but had I known then what I know now I would have taken that shot.
- What was your biggest activity other than football?
After my junior season, I asked Radcliffe if I could join the track team to gain speed. He said sure! I ran indoor track, then outdoor as a sprinter in hundred and the 4 x 100. Track required a different conditioning. Samie (Parker) would beat me; I wasn’t wining all heats, but my time came down by the end of the season as I improved. That experience was awesome. The training to gain speed and maintain during off season helped prepare for my senior season. Also, I somehow gained a step from surgery (after freshman year) it actually helped me gain speed; I gained a step. The guys would joke around and call the screw in my ankle the “Speed Screw!”
- After your Duck playing days were over, what did you do?
I was working at Red Robin to build a resume while working on my last classes. One day I was at a softball game, and a buddy called me from California to tell me I wasn’t drafted. I wasn’t expecting to be; having no agent and going to no main NFL combines except pro days at UO. I wasn’t crushed, expecting that…. when 5-10 minutes later I got a phone call from the 49ers! They offered to sign as a free agent for a thousand dollars. During the camp, they tried me as a corner; and they moved me and sent me to the NFL Europe to learn to play corner.
- Talk about your days in the pros.
I went to Europe to learn to play defense, never doing it before. I was competing against the best athletes, way behind my curve. My first year I was learning, just a practice guy. I went back to 49ers, and they sent me back to Europe a second season. Then I played much better. My second year at Hamburg I led the league in punt returns and second for kickoffs. I came back to the 49ers and was doing great on defense and special teams, but I never got game time at returns. I had two tackles on defensive punt returns in one game (beating a double team). I felt I had a shot, but I was cut again in preseason. That’s when a buddy at Police Department called and said they were hiring. The 49ers talked about sending me to Europe a third year, but I felt didn’t want to hang onto the dream, because I’d have to wait around and I wanted more of life.
Allan Amundson remains in the Eugene/Springfield area today where he is married with two children. He is currently fulfilling another lifelong dream he had by serving as a police officer in the Eugene/Springfield area. “I like where my life is now with my family, where I work, and I don’t have any regrets. I’ve been there seven years (December 2005) and am glad to have settled here.” He continues to make a difference in the local community, just like he did as a Duck; never forgetting the valuable life skills he learned here at Oregon.