Imagine tearing your ACL twice. Imagine the mental strength it takes to overcome that kind of dreadful situation. Imagine wearing a Ducks uniform for five seasons and not seeing much playing time. This is Kenny Bassett.
As a redshirt senior, Bassett has patiently waited for his name to be called. You may recognize his speed and tenacity on special teams, but more recently, his abilities have been utilized at running back. It was a different dynamic duo that stepped up in Oregon’s game vs the Cal Bears last Friday night. While the Ducks are exploiting Byron Marshall‘s unique talents across the field and Thomas Tyner is temporarily out with an injury, the next guys in line are true freshman Royce Freeman and none other but Bassett. With a strong foundation throughout his five seasons with the Ducks, Bassett has served the team as needed and is proving time after time just how important he is to the Ducks’ success. His quick change of direction, field vision and outstanding agility cannot be matched.
Bassett gave us some insight into his experience being a Duck for five seasons.
Originally recruited by the Ducks as a running back, Bassett came onto the team behind LaMichael James (2010-2012) and Kenjon Barner (2010-2013). Throughout his high school days, Bassett was a standout running back at Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, California. In the first quarter of his first game as a senior, the unthinkable happened. Bassett tore his ACL. Instead of dropping the sport altogether, Bassett focused on achieving his dream of playing and worked hard to get his strength back before being recruited by the Ducks. Just as Bassett continued to build his strength and mental game, he re-tore his ACL during the spring of his freshman year at Oregon. When it rains it pours, right?
“It was a little worse because I already knew what to expect,” Bassett said. “Other than that, I had a whole ton of people around me that kept me positive and kept me working, and here I am.”
Overcoming not one but two ACL tears takes its toll on a player’s physical and mental game. The fear of recurring injuries is something that several players have set in the back of their minds. Back and ready to work, Bassett is definitely proving himself with his performance on the field.
During the offseason, Bassett likes to volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club and enjoys playing with the kids. Unfortunately for Bassett, it’s not football they play; it’s dodge ball. Bassett says with a smirk on his face, “I would show up with some O Heroes and play dodge ball. The kids would get a little vicious. They target us with head shots. It’s intense.” It sounds as though Bassett would rather take on a 275-lb. linebacker than a kid with a dodge ball and a crazed look in his eyes.
Bassett has continually demonstrated his commitment to the Ducks. Patiently waiting for his name to be called at running back, Bassett has been a part of a corps of talented running backs that has included James, Barner, Marshall, Tyner and Freeman. I asked Bassett if he could describe their relationship.
“We are all brothers,” he said. “Those are my brothers. We will get on each other and make jokes. We are just one big family. I feel that we all just teach each other the same thing: how to be a competitor. Just go out there and compete with each other, and that’s how we make each other better.” Both friendly and competitive, the dynamic running back corps is a force not to be tested as multiple names have had high impact performances for the Ducks.
With every new season comes a new team — new names to step up, new plays and a new outlook. There is something special about this season’s team. The past five seasons, Bassett has been in several games and been on several teams. I asked him what makes this year so special.
“We just have a bunch of people who are really into it. We are all selfless. Not everybody is caught up in wanting the ball. We got a whole team that everybody just wants to win. That’s what makes us special,” said Bassett.
Stanford University comes into town this Saturday. Whether that strikes fear, anxiety or revenge in your heart, it is going to be one heck of a game. On one side of the ball is the calm and collected Cardinal led by cool-handed QB Kevin Hogan. On the other side, you have the high-flying, tenacious Ducks, who come into this game with a little bit of revenge in the back of their minds. The Ducks have lost two straight to the Cardinal. Looking at the Ducks’ schedule this season, two games stand out: Michigan State and Stanford. Both are pretty similar teams in terms of structure. Since the win over Michigan State, have the Ducks had this game against Stanford on their minds (which would steer away from Chip Kelly’s philosophy of Win The Day)?
“We are not trying to make it any different. We try and keep it consistent every week by practicing hard.” For those on the team that have witnessed both losses, this game may brew up some revenge. “Personally, a little bit. Probably more for the veterans. Like, ‘We can’t lose this one. We just can’t.’ But for the young guys, it’s just another game. We got to go out and get a W,” Bassett explains. Saturday will be more than just a game as both Oregon and Stanford look to claim the top spot in the Pac-12 North. Although Stanford has a big front seven presence, I have full confidence in our dynamic running back corps to penetrate and attack, Ducks style.
See you Saturday, Ducks fans.
Top photo by Kevin Cline