The Duck offense is one of the greatest in the nation, and their defense continuously backs it up year after year. But, there’s another part of the game that many of us either tend to forget or take for granted. You know it — special teams, baby! Special teams are just as important to a team’s success as the offense and defense. Although the Ducks don’t attempt too many field goals, each of the past three seasons has been what many consider a bust due to those missed field goals. And, let’s not forget how important the opponent’s offensive position is from kick and punt returns (the deeper the better!).
This article is dedicated to the guys who don’t get — but certainly deserve — recognition. Specifically, this will introduce you to the special teams superstar, Ayele Forde. Before we get to his on-the-field play, let’s take a step back and look at the adversity this young man handled five years ago, which put him in the excellent position he’s in today.
Ayele was passed over as a running back recruit by many colleges. He went to Silverado High School, a school basically in the middle of nowhere, which made it difficult for him to get noticed by scouts. Nevertheless, Ayele did not let that bring him down; he chose the University of Oregon with one motive on his mind and that was to make the football team. That he did, as Ayele walked on to our prestigious program with his head up high and his chest puffed out. However, that was only the beginning.
Just making the team wasn’t enough for him. He was hungry and was ready to make sure that the coaches would know his name. In 2010 Forde was a redshirt freshman, learning the game from inside and out. His goal was to play running back, and that goal was achieved in 2011 when he scored two touchdowns as he began to raise some eyebrows.
Unfortunately, Forde had to back up some of the greatest running backs this school has ever seen in LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, which made it difficult for him to make any sort of contribution on the field.
However, Ayele continued to be patient since he knew he could make the team better — not just in the locker room, but on the field, too. Forde made the decision to join special teams in the 2012-2013 season, and boy, oh boy, was it a great decision!
With his aggressive style of play, he was able to translate that energy from offense to defense as he has become the leading tackler on special teams for the past two seasons. This year he will be going for a school record by leading the special teams having the most tackles on the squad for three consecutive years, something anyone in the league would be proud of.
But Ayele’s talents don’t just stop there. Forde is also a very talented artist. Yes, you read that correctly, artist. Some of his work has been exhibited around the university, and I guarantee you it’s some of the most beautiful work you’ve ever seen. Ayele plans to continue to improve his artistic abilities and continues to learn and grow every day with his work.
Back to football. Last year Ayele was given a gift few walk-ons in the nation could say they received. The gift? A full-ride scholarship! With that incredible present for the out-of-state student, Ayele is able to commit himself 100 percent to art and football without having to worry about paying off student loans.
Forde also has a special character from which the entire team can feed. He knows he may not ever get the chance to be, “The Guy,” but he is willing to continue to put his heart and soul into the team knowing that it takes every ounce of energy from every single person on the team, no matter their ranking, to achieve the final goal that we’ve all been waiting for so patiently.
So the next time you want to show off your Duck football knowledge, remember the name, Ayele Forde; the talented, hard-hitting, charismatic, artistic, leading tackler who continues to make the team environment a better place in which to play.
Top photo by Kevin Cline