I interviewed Hamani Stevens at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex after practice Tuesday.
This morning I learned that Stevens had an incredible experience on a mission trip in 2009 and 2010. “It really helped me mature as a person and as a player,” he said.
I don’t know Stevens as a person, but as a player he is definitely a key factor in our offensive line; since 2011 he has played in 41 games as a Duck. As a strong component of our offensive line, he plays an important role when it comes to the protection of QB Marcus Mariota. I asked Stevens if he enjoys playing in front of Mariota. He explained, ”It’s amazing; sometimes I catch myself with my jaw hitting the floor thinking ‘Dang, did he just do that? That’s crazy!'” He went on to say it is a cool experience to be able to play with someone so athletic.
Oregon heads into a very intense match-up this Saturday. Stanford has defeated us two years in a row and the Ducks are hungry for revenge. Stevens mentioned that Stanford ran a lot of stunts and outside blitzes last year that the Ducks hadn’t planned for. Because of the Cardinal’s defensive scheme, Mariota didn’t have very much time to make decisions or throw the ball well.
The scores of the past two games have been fairly close, and Stevens explained he didn’t believe Oregon was out-hustled by Stanford. “I don’t feel like we got out-worked at all up front in the past two games,” he said. “I feel like we made some mistakes but I definitely don’t feel like we were out-worked.”
The Ducks have definitely worked hard — not only this week in preparing for Stanford, but every week getting primed for whichever team they face next. In my prior letter to Stanford, I said the Cardinal is no more or less special than any other team Oregon plays. Stevens validated this when he answered whether or not it was a personal goal for him to beat Stanford. ”It’s a personal goal to beat every team,” he said.
One practice at a time; one game at a time. That’s how the Ducks are playing, and it’s that kind of focus and determination that will take us all the way this year!
Top photo by Craig Strobeck