Most legends we hear about have one thing in common — they revolve around heroes. These legends also follow the same pattern of having a hero’s story arc. The hero comes in as a savior with a bright and promising future and has a major fall — only to rise again stronger than ever. During his time in Eugene, Kiko Alonso followed the same hero’s arc and left Oregon as a legendary figure.
Although he redshirted his freshman year at Oregon, the first year in which he played Kiko managed to get onto the field for 12 games, registering 13 solo tackles and 16 total tackles. These stats may seem insignificant, but they were a sign that Alonso was on his way to a bright future at Oregon. The fact that almost all of Alonso’s tackles were solo proved that he would be a reliable tackling machine, and was on his way to being something great.
2010 was setting up to be a breakout year for Alonso. He showed promise as an inside linebacker. However, as we see with all heroes, they fall out of favor with the people — just as Alonso did that year. That summer, Oregon players experienced a rash of legal troubles, from Jeremiah Masoli to Lamichael James and numerous other players. Then Alonso was charged with a DUI. The team was out of control, and an example needed to be made. This led to the fall of our hero, as he was suspended for the entire 2010 football season.
2010 proved to be a special season as Oregon went to the program’s first national championship game. Who knows? Maybe if Alonso had not been suspended that season things might have been different against Auburn. With the sting of coming so close to winning it all still fresh in the team’s mind, the players were focused on finishing the job the following season.
However, Alonso’s fall to rock bottom was not yet complete, as he had another run-in with the law. He was arrested for yet another alcohol-related offense. It was clear that our Alonso needed guidance, but many fans had had enough and were calling for his dismissal from the team. Luckily Chip Kelly gave him a third and final chance to get his head right. As required for his probation, he completed more than 200 hours of community service, and went to alcohol abuse meetings.
It seemed like the immense talent that Alonso possessed was going to be wasted. Instead it led to his redemption. With renewed focus, Alonso was reinstated to the team and finally had the breakout year that we had been waiting for. In 2011, he was fourth in tackles on the team with 46. He and Michael Clay solidified the defense and were two of the surest tacklers in the country.
2011 proved to be another special season, as Oregon made it to the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin and future NFL star Russell Wilson. The game went back and forth and was the highest-scoring Rose Bowl up to that time.
In many high-scoring games, the first team to make a defensive play is the one who wins the game — and that happened in the Rose Bowl! It was on this stage that Alonso made the defining play of his career, intercepting Wilson and leading Oregon to their first Rose Bowl win in 95 years. Alonso’s performance led to him being named the defensive MVP of the game.
With the new season around the corner, why not relive more than just one highlight from the Rose Bowl win? The Mighty Oregon DVD can bridge the gap from now until the start of another championship run. Enjoy our past successes while we wait for another great year of Oregon football.
By 2012, Alonso had made it to his senior year and had learned from the mistakes of his youth. This was the year that he would go from being simply a player who turned it all around to an Oregon legend. Coming off a breakout season, as well as being the Rose Bowl savior, Alonso now had expectations to live up to. He not only lived up to these expectations — he surpassed them.
While there were some questions about the team, there were none about the linebackers, who would be the backbone of a solid defense. Alonso no longer had the off-the-field issues of the past, but he did have to deal with injuries. An injury to the wrist usually would hamper a player’s production or even cause him to miss playing time, but Alonso was not just any player. By fighting through the pain, he helped lead Oregon to a Fiesta Bowl victory to cap off his college career.
Even though his college career has ended, the legend of Kiko Alonso is not over. Despite all of his setbacks and mistakes, he was drafted in the second round by the Buffalo Bills. During his rookie season, he quickly established himself as one of the top young linebackers in the NFL. Now that he is reuniting with Kelly, his former coach, the legend will continue.
Featured photo by Kevin Cline
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