At the University of Oregon, football is a great tradition. The Ducks are now known to be a powerhouse in the Pac-12, finishing second with a record of 9-3 last year.
The Ducks have produced special players since the beginning of the football program in the late 1890s. Every year Oregon recruits players around the country with hopes they will take the team far – by winning bowl games or even a national title. The best of the best move on to the NFL, and Duck fans are no strangers to watching their players go to the next level.
Fan favorite and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota was taken second overall in last year’s draft. Although Mariota broke many records and will be considered one of the greatest to play for Oregon, he is just one of 30 ex-Duck football players in the NFL today.
With so many Duck players playing professionally now, and with so many legends in the past, let’s reflect by counting down the Top 10 Oregon football players of all time. We also want to know what you think. Who did we miss? Comment with your 10 best!
10. Dennis Dixon
Dixon played quarterback for the Ducks from 2004-2007, and put together one of the most impressive senior seasons of all time. He finished 9th in total offense (2,719) although he played only 10 games! He made a strong case for the Heisman Trophy until he injured his knee, tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the season. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers out of college and is currently a free agent.
9. LaMichael James
James enjoyed a college career filled with awards and records. He is another Duck player who was in contention for the Heisman – he finished in 3rd place in the 2010 voting. James was awarded the Doak Walker Award that year, which is given to the most outstanding running back. In 2010 he also lead the Pac-10 in rushing touchdowns, rushing yards, rushing yards per attempt, points and many additional areas. He is also the Ducks’ all-time leader in rushing yards! James was an unbelievably quick running back who could not be stopped.
8. Mel Renfro
Mel Renfro was a one-of-one true legend. He played both offense and defense during his 1961-1963 college career and became only the second Duck to be a two-sport All-American – as a halfback and hurdler. He owns the record for most interceptions for the Dallas Cowboys (52) and was a 10-time Pro-Bowler in the NFL. He’s one of six former Duck players to be elected to the NFL Hall of Fame, which earns him an honorable mention on our list.
7. Norm Van Brocklin
Van Brocklin, a.k.a. ”The Dutchman,” was the first all-American QB in Oregon school history. Despite playing two seasons that were shorter back then (10 games), he still passed for 1,900+ yards and 18 touchdowns. He led the Ducks to the Cotton Bowl in 1949 with a remarkable 9-2 record. The Dutchman played 12 seasons in the NFL and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1971. He passed away more than 30 years ago but his legacy remains forever in Ducks fans’ hearts.
6. Haloti Ngata
Ngata is a superior defensive tackle who played three years as a Duck. A 6’4, 330-lb. monster in college, Ngata won defense player of the year in 2005. He has been playing in the NFL since 2006 and is currently with the Detroit Lions. Still a threat, he was ranked No. 9 out of the Top 100 players by NFL Network in 2012. Although Ngata is almost 33 years old, he continues to be very successful in his NFL career. He is a 5-time Pro-Bowler, 2-time First-Team all-Pro and a Super Bowl champ – wow.
5. Gary Zimmerman
Another dominant defensive/offensive lineman, Zimmerman is the third Duck on this list who is in the NFL Hall of Fame. He won offensive linemen of the year in his senior season in 1983 and was elected to two all-American teams. He brought his talent to the NFL in 1984 where he appeared in seven Pro Bowls and was named to the all-Pro team eight times! He remains one of the greatest to ever play his position. If you want someone protecting the pocket, it’s Zimmerman.
4. Bill Musgrave
Musgrave was the starting quarter for the Oregon Ducks from 1987-1990. He was the captain of the team for three years and led the Ducks to back-to-back bowl games for the first time. He set a total of 15 records and in 1989 lead the Pac-10 in pass completions, total touchdowns, pass attempts, passing touchdowns, total yards and total yards per play! Musgrave remains in the NFL as an offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. A true legend from Oregon, he was elected to the Oregon Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000.
3. Joey Harrington
How many QBs are going to be on the list? Well, there’s no question about Joey! Oregon’s QB from 1998 to 2001, Harrington was a prolific passer, completing 58.8% of his passes in 2001 (which led the Pac-10). He finished 4th in the Heisman voting in 2001 and won the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year. Harrington finished his college career with an impressive total record of 25-3 (including bowl games). He threw for a total 59 touchdowns and ran for 18. His total yards – 7,121 – rank 3rd in Oregon football history.
2. Bobby Moore
Moore, or Ahmad Rashad, was arguably the best running back to ever play for Oregon. Recruited as a wide receiver, he transformed into a running back where he proved to be dominant. When Moore played for the Ducks, they were nothing compared to what they are now. They struggled to even make .500.
In a 15-year span, 1965-1979, the Ducks were .500 or better only three times. Two of those seasons were with – and primarily because of – Moore. He played three years with the Ducks, during which he rushed for 2,306 yards as a running back and caught passes good for 1,565 yards as a WR. He led the Pac-8 in 11 categories during his time with the Ducks. In 2007 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He took his talents to the NFL in 1972, and is currently a sportscaster on the national scene.
1. Marcus Mariota
You knew he was on the list, and you just found out where. Mariota, the only Heisman Trophy winner in school history, can be put up in conversation with the greatest college quarterbacks of all time. He capped his final year by leading the Ducks to their second national title game appearance in 2015 (2014 season).
He is Oregon’s all-time passing leader. In 2014 Mariota led the nation with 5,224 total yards and won the Heisman, AP Player of the Year, the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, the Walter Camp Player of the Year and more! He finished with the highest passing efficiency in the Pac-12 and 2nd in the entire NCAA. He even led the league in rushing yards per attempt in 2013, and came 3rd in most rushing touchdowns in 2014.
Mariota is an offense superstar and will continue his success as a pro. We wish him the best of luck in the NFL and thank him for the memories.
Oregon fans, who makes your Top 10?
Top Photo From Sporting News Video
Alaan Al-Jaibaji is a freshmen at the University of Oregon studying pre-business. Alaan Is from San Mateo California, about 25 minutes outside of San Francisco. He played basketball in high school and even coached for a couple years.
He is a sports fanatic and a warriors, giants and 49ers fan since birth. He did not grow up a major Ducks fan (mother worked at Stanford) but, becoming apart of the duck sport culture is one of the reasons he loves it so much
FishDuck Salutes this Oregon Community…
I continue to be amazed at the quality of writing and the thought given to the posts/comments below the articles. I am very grateful that everyone has embraced the posting/commenting rules of this community as it has made my job a ton easier.
We have had as many as 3,000 posts a number of times before I ever have to delete one, and that just doesn’t happen on the web these days. My percentage of deletions to comments/posts is between one to two tenths of 1%, of which is stunning.
The new forum is delayed due to tech issues and my own life issues, but this Oregon Sports Community is going to be very special with the same rules and decorum that we presently see every day.
I salute you all for your thoughtfulness and respect toward fellow Duck fans. The Best is Yet to Be!