Throughout life you run into certain people who encourage, uplift and inspire and those who do the opposite. When I was first getting involved in journalism I make a point to ask the veterans in the press box how they made it, what to do and what not to do. ESPN’s Peter Gammons, the Oregonians George Pasero, the Seahawks Pete Gross, and Mr. Rip City Bill Schonely all took time to share and encourage.
And that brings us to the voice of the Ducks Jerry Allen. Sure he sounds great on the air, full of enthusiasm and all that. He ends his broadcasts with a “God Bless.” Some of it’s gotta be fake right? No one is that positive.
Wrong. That’s Jerry. I’ve known him since 1992 and he’s spent most of his life smiling, looking on the bright side and seeing the glass half full. It’s worked out pretty good.
Born and raised in Grants Pass, he’s an Oregonian to the core. He married a Eugene girl and tied the knot just a few miles from the U of O he dedicated his life to. He loves camping on the Oregon coast and packing up the motor home for trips to Diamond Lake.
He’s a proud father of three, grandfather to 9 and will be celebrating his 44th wedding anniversary this July with bright and beautiful Sharon.
So as we get ready for one of the biggest games in Oregon sports history, here are some serious and some not so serious questions for a guy who’s watched more Oregon sporting events in the last 28 years than anyone other than God. Topics below include: Jesus, why Pullman is great, rejection from a broadcasting icon and Monday’s big game.
Q: How’s this year’s team different than the 2011 squad that played for the National Championship?
A: “Really not a lot, the same coaches as everyone knows, but things are different with Mark Helfrich. Don’t get me wrong, I love Chip and he was great to me, but Mark has a unique style with how he does things. He was born in Oregon and grew up in Oregon and brings something special to all of this.”
Q: What’s the most important thing during Monday’s game? In other words what will determine who will win more than anything else?
A: “Turnovers for two reasons – #1 You’re giving away an opportunity to score. #2 You’re giving your opponent an extra opportunity to score. Some people commented after the Rose Bowl that Florida State really beat themselves. No, . . . Florida State didn’t let that game get away. Oregon took it from them. Oregon caused the fumbles and made the interceptions. Florida State didn’t play their best football because Oregon wouldn’t let them.”
Q: Why is Oregon so popular across the country?
A: “It all started when Phil Knight or someone at Nike recognized that the input of players was really important to what Oregon did and wore and the look. I remember when they (Nike) first came in and said ‘we want some of the players to sit in on the design of the uniforms, . . . what would they like to see?’ That was huge, to let 18, 19, 20 year old’s have a say in this. A lot of fans, myself included, saw the new look uniforms and thought ‘I don’t know if I like this.’ But Mike Bellotti or someone on his staff said, ‘Yeah, but the kids like it and high school kids like it. And it was really brilliant.”
(21 seconds mark – Oregon Uniform shot)
Q: Are you very good at predicting the outcome of games?
A: No, I’m such an optimistic, I always pick Oregon to win.
Q: There are a dozen college football teams with rosters full of 4-star and 5-star players, but they didn’t make the playoffs. Oregon’s roster is made of more 3-star players than anything else. How do they consistently compete for a national championship and can this kind of success continue?
A: “Yes it can continue, and one reason is that the coaches evaluate high school talent better than most and have a system that’s better than most. It started with Rich Brooks and credit the University for sticking with him through some tough times, but he got through it. The locker room used to be so small that players would have to take turns getting dressed for games; there just wasn’t enough space. Oregon coaches recognize potential much better than others, and know how to coach up.
“Neal Zoumboukos, the former Oregon Assistant coach said it best, ‘Rich Brooks laid the foundation, Mike Belotti put in the framework and Chip Kelly & Mark Helfrich put the finishing touches on the home.”
Q: What’s something most people don’t know about Jerry Allen?
A: Probably not enough people know that I love Jesus and am a Christian, although that’s something I’ve never hidden.
Q: Do people still ask you for tickets to big games?
A: For the first Rose Bowl back in ’94, yes. I must have had 100 requests. For this game, everyone knows by now, very few requests.
Q: My college roommate Brian Badger can fit inside a suit case and he wants to know if you can sneak him into the booth in a suitcase so he can watch the game with you and Jorgy, are you open to it?
A: No, but that’s creative.
Q: What do you think of FishDuck.com and other publications committed to giving more exposure and analysis to Oregon Athletics?
A: “I think it’s cool. . . with social media and everything that’s happened. It’s exploding.”
Q: Where are your favorite things to do when you have down time before games?
A: “In LA if I have a car I like to go to Disneyland. It’s where I took Sharon on our honeymoon, and it’s fun to relive those memories. I don’t even have to go inside. I just like to look around at the things outside the park like the ESPN Zone.
In San Francisco I love the Wharf and walking around, in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
I like Pullman. I was born and raised in a small community, so there’s a comfort zone being somewhere like that. I really enjoy going to Pullman, no traffic jams.”
(Roadtrip to Pullman, Washington)
Q: You’ve made it on one of broadcasting’s biggest stages. Before this success did anyone ever tell you that you couldn’t make it in this industry?
A: “When I was in college at Southern Oregon, I wanted to get to Medford and talked with a TV/Radio Station owner, . . . an icon in broadcasting there and he didn’t really listen to my tape, but he listened to my voice. He said ‘you know, you might want to consider another opportunity in another occupation. You don’t really have a voice for radio and I don’t think it’s something you can try for.’
I remember being crushed at the time, but it drove me. It drove me to want to defeat him and want to prove to him that he was really wrong and I was blessed to do that. Follow your dreams and go for it. Don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t do it. ”
Q: Tell me about Kenny Wheaton’s pick and your emotional 2010 Civil War call.
A: “Those are times you can’t prepare for, you can’t plan for. You don’t want to. For the Kenny Wheaton pick I just became a fan in every sense of the word. I was jumping up and down. I kinda lost control.
At the end of the Oregon/Oregon State game in 2010. . . it was just being a Duck fan for so long. . .The flood of emotion from all of that got away from me. When we went to the commercial I remember thinking I thought I had embarrassed myself and wasn’t very professional and the guys told me, ‘hey, no that’s fine. Show that emotion.”
And they were right.
(Civil War Call)
I hope Jerry is emotional Monday night about 11 pm central time and says something he’s never said before, “The Oregon Ducks are the college football champions.”
Top Photo from Video