A Duckling Profile: Taylor Alie and the Walk-on’s Dream
Three years ago, Taylor Alie was a second-string high school quarterback. Last year he was fifth on the depth chart for the Oregon Ducks. This year he could be number two and heir to Marcus Mariota’s throne. Luck, combined with an infinite amount of drive and persistence, has allowed hometown hero Alie to rise from regular Eugene native to a nationally-ranked football team stud.
Alie grew up in Eugene, Oregon, home of the green and yellow. Parents Jeff and Robyn Alie raised him and his sister with an emphasis on compassion, prosperity and football. Alie grew up a Duck fan his entire life and was lucky enough to attend Henry D. Sheldon High School, where the jerseys are also green. Sheldon is a nationally-recognized football powerhouse, responsible for putting quarterbacks such as Alex Brink and Chris Miller into the National Football League. In addition, Sheldon’s most recent notable prospect was the highly-touted former Oregon Duck Curtis White.
At Sheldon, Alie played and excelled in the three major sports. He lettered as a point guard for two years on the basketball team where he was able to quarterback the court. In baseball, Alie lettered three times and helped secure a state championship. But clearly it was football where this young man stood out.
Although Alie served the backup quarterback role as a junior, he won the starting position his senior season, and it was all ascendant from there. Through his own perseverance, and under the incredibly beneficial tutelage of Head Coach Lane Johnson, Alie was able to lead the Irish to an astounding 14-0 record, a state championship and even a national ranking. During this season Alie put up incredible numbers as the Irish’s lead man. He threw for 3,183 yards and 35 touchdowns, and on the ground he covered 447 yards with seven touchdowns. This was enough to earn him a spot on the 6-A all-state first team.
However, Alie’s feats in high school were not enough to land him the scholarship offers he wanted. Division-1 schools were concerned with his kicker-like 6-foot 175-pound frame, so the only school that tried hard to recruit him was D-3 Linfield in McMinnville. But the Ducks were not ignorant to the talent in their backyard. Oregon extended an invitation to Alie for a team tryout so that he could attempt to earn a spot on the deeply talented roster.
Alie made a bold decision and decided to attend the University of Oregon in hopes that he could make the football team — and that he did. “It was a D1 football team [Oregon], and I might as well see if I could make it,” Alie said, according to Duck Territory. “Hold nothing back. I’d rather do this and get cut than never do it and regret it my whole life.”
Alie looked impressive at try-outs and earned himself a roster spot. Unfortunately, he was slotted behind Heisman-hopeful Mariota, two promising redshirt freshmen in Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie, incoming freshman Damion Hobbs and senior walk-on Dustin Haines. The steep depth chart did not deter Alie, though, as he continued to work his hardest throughout the redshirt season.
By spring, Alie had played all of his minutes on the scout team but left everything on the field. Rarely does a scout team player — let alone a walk-on – impress the coaching staff, but Alie did just that. The Daily Emerald quotes Head Coach Mark Helfrich as stating that “Taylor had a great spring,” and that he was “excited about his [Alie’s] development.” Coaches were raving about his work ethic and ability to make plays out of nothing. When it came time to play his spring game, Alie handled it how he handles everything; he struggled a bit at first, adjusted and then hit Johnathan Loyd for a touchdown.
Alie tends to start off a little behind, and only with a strong dosage of ambition does he succeed. But luck is finally on his side. In addition to Haines graduating, competing quarterbacks Hobbs and Rodrigues have both decided to transfer. One would then assume that Lockie, or incoming four-star recruit, Morgan Mahalak, would serve as the primary backup. But Alie was so impressive in the spring and in workouts, that he is in serious contention for a shot at second string. Starting at quarterback is a walk-in’s dream, but if Alie can earn the number two spot, he’s one step closer.
And I wouldn’t bet against him. Alie’s incredible mind and drive, combined with an unteachable ability to make plays will help him succeed in an offense where improvisation is welcome. He may not be able to see over the line at all times, but that’s where his deep understanding of the playbook and chemistry with the receivers will come into play.
And Alie is looking forward to the season. “It’s going to be surreal,” he said to Oregon Live. “It will be fun to go to a place where I watched [the Ducks] growing up and go out and compete.” Lockie, who is considered a front-runner for the back-up job, was heavily recruited out of high school, but Alie has been watching the Ducks since the age of four, and will stop at nothing to see his dream fulfilled.
Main photo by Kevin Cline