Jordan Ingram reporting for FishDuck.com in an exclusive interview with former Oregon Ducks offensive lineman, André Yruretagoyena.
The 2015 Oregon Ducks are halfway through spring practices, and the excitement and anticipation from fans that comes with a new season continues to grow. But for one former Oregon player, the spring season signifies a rebirth of a different kind. Senior André Yruretagoyena has chosen to forego his fifth and final year of playing eligibility with the Ducks to focus on his health and education.
For the first time in nearly a decade, Yruretaogyena won’t be preparing for an upcoming football season. I got a chance to ask Yruretagoyena about his career at Oregon and the factors that went into his decision to retire from college football.
FishDuck: How long have you played football?
André Yruretagoyena: 9 years following this season.
— Steve Cherry (@scherry72) January 21, 2015
FD: As a lineman, how long have you been encouraged to gain weight and when did it really start to become important?
AY: Not until my junior and senior years of high school, because I was playing varsity then and that was when I started mauling dudes, which led to scholarship offers. It started to become important the summer coming into my freshman year at Oregon. However, I gained all the wrong weight. So, up until my final year when I earned a starting spot was when I was at my best physically. All seasons before that I was trying to earn playing time while struggling to gain good weight and confidence. Anyways, that year I finally earned a starting spot I was about [roughly] 305 and between 10 & 15 percent body fat.
FD: Did carrying all that weight become painful?
AY: My weight never became painful, but it was a pain to keep on with how hard practices were. The most I ever lost in one practice was 11 pounds. The other thing was that the weight gets annoying after all these years because who in their right mind wants to weigh 300 pounds when they don’t need to be? The toughest thing now that I have so much free time and my life isn’t structured around football is developing a strict diet. I’ve been eating whatever I want, when I want, since 8th grade and now I can’t do that because I’d be the star of the next World’s Heaviest Man if I kept up those bad habits. Also, the workouts aren’t mandatory so you just have to remind yourself that you need to lose this weight for your own health.
FD: What ultimately caused you to retire?
AY: I retired mainly because I knew it was time to be done. My mind wasn’t in it like it used to be and football is not a sport you can just go through with that type of mindset. A college football team at this level thrives and succeeds because a bunch of individuals come together to compete for a common goal. That being said, one hell of a mindset is required and that was something I didn’t have anymore. It wasn’t fair of me to be around my teammates with that attitude and it especially wasn’t fair to the younger guys. They need to look up to people like Tyler [Johnstone]. He’s a great leader and teams succeed with people like him in charge. My health didn’t help either. To this day I am still not fully recovered from the Michigan State game. The training staff encourages me to come in for treatment but I am too stubborn to go over there and waste their time, especially in the middle of spring ball. That staff is absolutely incredible and I can’t thank them enough for getting me back on the field before that season ended. The ankle heals slowly but what makes me laugh is that my ankle wasn’t my main injury that day.
FD: What did the doctors tell you regarding your injury at Michigan State?
AY: Well, I’ll tell you my injury now: I broke my leg and had a bad ankle sprain. Even now my ankle still bothers me. I ride the bike at the gym. I tried running and it does not feel good. That’s okay, I don’t like running for no apparent reason. I’ll leave that to my roommate Russell, who’s on the track team. The doctors said it would be a minimum of two months, but let’s be realistic here; bones may heal in that time but ankles do not.
FD: How long did you know that the 2014 season would be your last?
— Tyler Stansbury (@Tylertas) November 22, 2014
AY: I’ve been having thoughts of only playing for four years since I was a sophomore. After my junior season, which was disappointing, I gave it one more go with everything I had and it worked out well. Even after starting games I knew coming back for a fifth year was going to be tough. My deciding factors were 1. Do I really want to go through another year of this? I knew I wasn’t happy, so that was an easy choice. 2. My health, which wasn’t 100%. I’ve just been very ready to move on and don’t regret my choice at all. I miss my teammates and the experience but I’ve had such an incredible four years and wouldn’t trade the memories for anything.
FD: What kind of pressure do you think other linemen from other programs feel to gain and maintain weight?
AY: I really don’t know what other linemen feel in terms of pressure. Every program is different. Especially when it comes to how much weight, how much also turns into the kind of weight, good or bad. Oregon does a great job at making sure its athletes are healthy and in the best shape possible. I see other linemen that weigh [roughly] 340 and I am just in awe. You can be as big as you want but that size can’t keep up with the speed and conditioning of the Ducks. I know that linemen are not always the most confident off the field, which is why I feel so bad for some of these guys that don’t play and weigh so much. Weight like that isn’t easy to lose. However, some of the guys I’ve had the pleasure of being around over the years own the weight. I loved being able to joke about my weight. It’s a great ice breaker … because we aren’t the prettiest. Or are we? I haven’t talked with linemen from other programs about these things.
FD: What was a typical day in the life like as an Oregon football player from sunrise to bedtime during the season?
AY: Haha. I’ll enjoy answering this. This schedule has been my life for four years and it’s crazy how much it affects you, but it will be very beneficial because waking up early is a piece of cake. A typical game week involves any sort of this:
Lifting or meetings: 7:45-8:30
School responsibilities: 12-6
Meetings and dinner: 6:30-7:45
*Tutors can also occur after dinner from 8-9
Despite how demanding this schedule is, and by no means is this entirely accurate, it’s just going off memory, it really develops a work ethic that can’t be beat. Rise early, work all day, sleep, and repeat. I am forever grateful for this schedule because now that I’m done with football and have to wake up at this time or earlier, I go to work instead of workouts or very difficult practices. It all transitions into the real world. The other thing I hope this schedule shows is how long a student-athlete’s day is. These schedules vary across all sports but nothing makes me angrier than seeing people bash on athletes, then cheer us on when game time rolls around. To piggyback that, my favorite person on campus is the one that stereotypes every athlete to be the same person and proceeds to explain how going a month in our shoes is so simple. I would love nothing more than to watch that. I’m willing to bet they’d throw in the towel after the warm-up (which I don’t miss).
FD: Physically speaking, how are you feeling since you decided to retire?
AY: I’ve lost over 20 pounds since my departure from the team and have never felt better. I still have a long way to go but I’m used to the grind!
FD: What was your greatest football memory at Oregon?
— André Yruretagoyena (@ayruretagoyena) December 29, 2014
AY: My greatest football memory was watching Marcus win the Heisman. It still sends chills down my spine knowing that for a brief, and when I say brief… I mean BRIEEEEF, amount of time I blocked for a Heisman Trophy winner. On top of that, just knowing the kind of person Marcus is made it that much better. That guy truly embodies what it takes to be a Heisman winner and it is an honor calling him a friend.
Top photo by Craig Strobeck