Position Change Makes Johnathan Loyd One Rare Duck

Josh White FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

If there are any Duck fans out there still skeptical or on the fence about Johnathan Loyd’s place in Oregon Duck athletic history, Dana Altman’s first recruit just gave you another reason to get on board.

Already the winningest player in the long history of Oregon Basketball, Loyd, like so many of the Oregon fans this time of year, has turned his attention to spring football.  Only in Johnny’s case, he had and has taken advantage of his opportunity to utilize the available fifth season of athletic eligibility and is using it to join the Duck football team as a wide receiver/punt returner/kick off returner/who knows what else/doesn’t really matter because he’s a plus from any angle.

At first glance, the move seemed almost odd.  The Ducks football team seemed flush at the position and was set to return players such as Bralon Addison and Keanon Lowe, as well as a host of young, fast and talented four-star receivers waiting in the wings.

Where Loyd has been solely committed to basketball for the past four years, how can he possibly expect to break through a deep roster on one of the elite football teams in the country?  Does he even have a chance of seeing the field?

Most would find it hard to bet against him.

Loyd running to daylight

Loyd running to daylight.

It’s been well documented that Loyd played football at Bishop Gorman high school in Las Vegas where his team won the 2009 4-A state title.  He earned all-state recognition as a kick returner, when he averaged 32.6 yards per return, taking 5 of them to the house for touchdowns.

On the basketball court, physically, he showed a quick burst of speed and change of direction that would seem to carry over to football, and he also has the type of heart and competitive fire needed to be successful.

And honestly, if he records even one single reception next season it would  rank among the rare accomplishments ever by a Duck athlete.  Sure, at this early stage in the preseason, it’s not quite on the same level as say, Ashton Eaton’s Olympic gold metal in the decathalon, or someone such as Liz Brenner competing in virtually every women’s sport offered.

But, if the football team goes on and has the kind of year everyone expects and Loyd plays a role in that success, it will be difficult to not acknowledge that as a unique accomplishment in school history.

Looking back over the years, here are a few other multi-faceted athletes at Oregon:

(Note: This list is NOT all-inclusive, and not intended to be.  However, readers are welcome to leave their own multi-sport Ducks in the comment section.)

Jordan Kent –

Son of former UO, and current Washington State head coach Ernie Kent. Local Eugene Churchill High School product lettered in three sports while at Oregon, the first three-sport athlete in the Pac-10, since Arizona State’s J.D. Hill (baseball, football, track) in 1967-70.  The four-time All-American in track won the 200m with a time of 20.99 in the 2003 NCAA West Regional meet, as well as running the 100, 400, the 4×100 and 4×400 relays, to go with his long-jumping effort of 24’9.

Kent was also a defensive force and top rebounder for the  basketball team, and posted career highs in points (19) and rebounds (16) in a tough overtime loss to the hated Huskies.  But it was on the football field where he decided to pursue a professional career.  The Seattle Seahawks drafted the 6-foot-5, 217 WR with 4.43-40 speed in 2007, and he spent time on the practice squad with the Seahawks and Rams before being cut in 2010.

Arik Armstead –

Arik Armstead left the basketball team to focus full-time on football

Arik Armstead left the basketball team to focus full-time on football

Huge expectations are still perhaps waiting to be met as the former 5-star recruit enters his third season in Eugene.  The 6-8, 297 lb defensive lineman has played in all 26 games in the past two years, recording 39 tackles, two pass deflections, 4-1/2 tackles for loss, and 1-1/2 sacks.

Originally a two-sport athlete, Armstead redshirted last season with the basketball team – finally seeing action on the court where he scored two points on his only career shot attempt – and picked up a personal foul in four minutes – before deciding to step away, seemingly for good, from basketball and focus solely on football.

Mel Renfro –

One of the greatest athletes ever to play football at Oregon, Renfro played offense and defense and excelled in the hurdles.  He was an All-American in both track and football, placing second in the NCAA high-hurdles and third in the long jump after rushing for 1,540 yards on the football team.

Renfro went on to become on of the greatest Dallas Cowboys of all-time, and is one of only six players in their team “Ring of Honor.”  His achievements in both sports while at U of O helped pave the way for the many football/track athletes since, players such as J.J. Birden, Sammie Parker, LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas, Dior Mathis, B.J. Kelley, and most recently, Devon Allen.

George Shaw –

The very first two-sport All-American Duck, Shaw was quoted as saying “Baseball was more fun for me, but I was better at football.”  The Baltimore Colts agreed, and used the first overall draft pick on Shaw in 1955.

Loyd’s basketball career accomplishments combined with ANY activity in football has already put him on a very short list at Oregon.  If he is to next do the near-impossible and become a solid contributor during the football season, whether in practice and especially so in games, it would cement his status as one of the most rare Ducks in the entire flock.

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