Who Is on Your Mt. Rushmore of Oregon Football?

30Duck Editorials 45 Comments

My FishDuck Friends: I put it out there to send any Ponder-Point ideas to me charles@fishduck.com so that we have something to chew on during the three non-article days each week of Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. This way we are still discussing something Ducky every day within this community and have the place to escape what is going on in the real world. Today we welcome the contribution by 30Duck, as this is a good topic for us to consider.  Charles Fischer
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I’m going to limit this to the players, as important as Phil Knight and the coaches have been to the success of the program. Which players have left the biggest impressions on the history of Oregon football? There won’t be a “wrong” answer, as we will all use our own selection criteria to come up with our choices.

The first player I will go with won’t be a surprise to anyone: Marcus Mariota, the Ducks’ only Heisman Trophy winner. His record-setting exploits on the field are legendary, and off it, he’s been even more spectacular, a great ambassador for Oregon Football.

John Giustina

Haloti Ngata was un-blockable …

My second selection is Haloti Ngata. He just retired from the NFL and, in five years, will be enshrined in the Hall Of Fame in Canton. An ACL injury on punt coverage ended his first season at Oregon prematurely, but he ended his career with the Ducks being named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus 1st Team All-American.

Number three for me is LaMichael James. Now, I know that Marcus was the best player, but when I think of the great Oregon teams of that era, my mind goes to LMJ busting through a hole and heading to the end zone, his run against Tennessee, putting his elbow back in place against Cal. To this day, when I see a Ducks running back, I measure him against LaMichael James.

My fourth player goes back a ways: Ahmad Rashad, or as he was known then, Bobby Moore. First, it’s fun to call him one of the best to ever play at Oregon because he came from Tacoma, Washington. The point, though, is what he did when he got here. In his first two years, he was an All-Conference wide receiver. For his last two years, he moved to running back and was an All-American his senior year before being the 4th player selected in the 1972 NFL Draft.

So, fellow FishDuckers, what do you say? The great thing about this is having so many players to choose from!

30Duck
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo by Kevin Cline

Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.

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Charles Fischer

With the elevation of Jackson Light to 4-Stars on Rivals….this means Oregon now has 13 players verballed who are 4-Star or 5-Star players. We were tied with two other years at 12 of these coveted players, and now for 2021 we are a clear-cut 2nd place. The record is 2018 with 14 of them….and I think we can beat it!

For perspective: The number for each Pac-12 team of the coveted 4-Star or 5-Star Players:

Oregon        13
USC             14
Washington 4
Utah               3
ASU                2
Colorado      1
UCLA              1
Cal                  1
Arizona         zero
Stanford zero
WSU               zero
OSU                zero!
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And thanks to 30Duck for this fun discussion today!

I have changed my mind and we will continue to have articles every day of the week as before; now on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays–they will be shorter “Ponder-Point” type articles designed to start the discussion with full articles on the other four days.

But according to my original plan….we would not have had an article today and I’m glad to make the change back, so we have the conversation going every day!

Last edited 28 days ago by Charles Fischer
Charles Fischer

Right now, the Ducks have the No. 4 in the nation ranking, with the 13 coveted players, and five 3-Star players while USC is ranked No. 7 and has 14 of the coveted players and four of the 3-Star players and the rankings are very, very close. The difference is that we have a 5-Star player and USC does not.

So many surprises looking at that list; it is harder to acquire the 4 and 5-Star players than you would think. Stanford and UCLA doing so poorly thus far is always surprising.

And Wilcox is getting it done with a lot less and coaching them up. His teams will be like Oregon’s past teams….coached up enough to win a ton of games, but getting busted in the trenches and in the depth when up against the Blue-Bloods.

Jon Joseph

WOW!

DumpsterFire

Weeeellllll…yeah, the past and future as in that’s what we’re talking about, not that there’s a present. Guhhh…is this thing over yet?

DumpsterFire

This should all turn out to be an interesting thread. I’m kinda wanting to see who people come up with.

OK, I guess here’s my take…and as easy as it would be to say Mariota, I firmly believe the single most important player in Oregon history, or modern history more like it…because how many people can off the top of their head name the only player to ever go first overall in the draft…but the one player who changed Oregon football forever was none other than Joey Harrington. Before him we were just Oregon, the patsy team no one really took seriously. Then came the whole “Joey Heisman” campaign, with our new, flashy uniforms, and that all launched the Ducks in to a national brand.

Without Harrington, we’d just be a team with new uniforms. When those uniforms made national headlines because of a certain 80×100 billboard hanging in Times Square smack dab in the middle of New York City, this ride we’ve been on may never have taken flight.

Next I’d have to agree, Ngata…I mean the guy was who he was, and became who he became, and there was dominance at every step of the way.

Moving down the “Rushmore” line…Dan Fouts. Hall of Fame QB’s don’t come along every year, and he’s still a name, and face that people know and see in the football world. I mean come on, he was even in The Waterboy, and who didn’t like that one?

Ooph, there are a lot of players I could put here…Norm Van Brocklin, Ahmad Rashad, Johnathan Stewart, George Shaw (#1 overall in the draft, for those who didn’t have the answer earlier)…the list goes on, but honestly, I would say Chris Miller. Why him? Yeah, he did great here, he did good in the NFL, minus his injuries he would probably have done much better, but because of his continued involvement in the Eugene/Springfield area, and the state of Oregon in general, he’s been probably the most influential person here both during, and after his career ended.

So there you go, the “Rushmore” as I see it…Harrington, Ngata, Fouts, Miller.

Last edited 28 days ago by DumpsterFire
ptdduck

Harrington had a bullseye on his chest the entire year with the ballsy billboard. That was a lot of pressure for a college kid to bear and he didn’t buckle. He was the right guy for the moment.

DumpsterFire

So curiosity got me on this one…Johnathan Stewart. I don’t think anyone can argue he was one of Oregon’s greats, but it hit me, who would we compare him to? His size, speed and style actually reminded me of someone that I haven’t seen mentioned here yet, Royce Freeman.

Yes, Rolls Royce played an additional year, but subtracting that final year it’s actually pretty easy to do a direct comparison between the two. Statistically speaking, it isn’t actually very close at all. How their pro careers pan out may be different, but here at Oregon, if I had to choose between the two in their prime, I’d actually go with Freeman. More yards/average yards, more TD’s…just more.

Now, although not etched in stone-worthy, the most punishing RB…”Blount Force Trauma”, all day, every day. Honestly had he been able to start his college career at Oregon, he’d be right up there in the discussion.

Last edited 28 days ago by DumpsterFire
DumpsterFire

Droughns…agreed, or big Mo….

Jon Joseph

Harrington no doubt led the modern ‘PR charge;’ the national promotion of the Oregon brand.

Not CFB, but Steve Prefontaine should have a spot on the monument.

Mulholland

Kenjon Barner. , MM , cliff harris , LeMichael.

DumpsterFire

HA! Love the list, and what’s funny to me is the Harris addition. Joking or not, that dude left an impression not just at Oregon, but in pretty much ALL sports at ALL levels. He may not have coined the term, but he’s the one who made it a nationally recognized one…listen to athletes talk about winning a “Natty” and remember where it came from. Thanks Cliff, that one’s all because you…

Last edited 28 days ago by DumpsterFire
Santa Rosa Duck

This will be a fun thread. Thanks 30Duck. I am going with the best player I ever saw at a game where I was in attendance. Kenjon Barner, November 3, 2012 vs USC at LA Memorial Coliseum. It was a shootout with our DUCKS winning 62-51. Kenjon carried 38 times for 321 yards and five Touch downs. We were in a presidential election cycle like now and I was screaming Kenjon Barner for President. Charles, is that too political?

Charles Fischer

OK….that made me laugh!

Mudslide

These are all solid, logical picks, guys. But I have to go with the one player that not only changed the face of the OR-WA rivalry, but opened the door to further Duck successes over the following years. It’s a guy who is seen on the big screen every year at games. And you hear his name all the time. Need to know more? THE PICK! Kenny Wheaton!

Charles Fischer

I agree. Without the “The Pick” the first Rose Bowl in 30 years does not happen and Phil Knight does not approach Mike Bellotti to see how he can help.

Winners want to work with winners, and Phil did not come to the Ducks with millions until we had proven ourselves worthy first. Beaver fans and others who are jealous of Oregon forget or do not know that. We won the conference first without Phil’s help.

And it does not happen without “The Pick.”

Great call Mudslide…

DumpsterFire

I don’t know, I mean yes, that’s a moment that will live on at Autzen, and as the single most recognizable play it’s without a doubt going to go down as the top of all time, but would you put Wheaton himself, or “The Pick” on “Rushmore”? As a player he was good, but if he hadn’t made that single play, would you honestly remember who he is? Just curious.

I mean there have been some pretty good plays in Oregon history, but a single play, no matter how great, doesn’t define a career. Case in point, Camden Lewis had a game winner against WSU last year, a team that’s had our number for several years in a row. He was the hero of the game, but would you honestly say he’s one of the greatest kickers of all time at Oregon?

Last edited 28 days ago by DumpsterFire
Mudslide

There is no doubt that the various players mentioned here were among the very best who ever played at Oregon. But I was really operating under Charles’ statement of “Which players have left the biggest impressions on the history of Oregon football?” To me, Kenny Wheaton left the biggest impression, one that surges in me every year when I see that 15 second video of THE PICK. I think it probably left the biggest impression upon another team (and perhaps even another state), as well. (Hahahaaa….whatcha think, Washington?)

THAT was the play-game-year that I became a lifelong Duck football fan.

Jon Joseph

Dan Fouts. Helped revolutionize the NFL prior to the revolution happened.

Dan represented the university with great skill and aplomb as TV analyst.

ptdduck

Those San Diego teams were fun to watch. Don Coryell was an innovator.

Jon Joseph

Air Coryell was the Air Raid before the Air Raid.

Haywarduck

Kind of a logistics guy, is this going to be on Skinner or Spencer Butte? I actually think this is a great idea, and the two slices of circles on the side of the new renovation should be dedicated to photos of the greats. Offense on one side and defense on the other. I also don’t see how you could limit it to four as our history needs to be respected.

I could definitely see the discussion as people make the walk to the stadium about who these guys were. The dads would be able to point out the greats and tell stories as they make their way to the stadium to the young Ducks. It wouldn’t be a Mt. or Butte or Hall, but a Wall of Fame.

I think making sure stories about Vince Goldsmith, Russ Francis, Dave Wilcox and others are told is important and should be promoted. Also having a wall would be another item to inspire the players to greatness. I could see a young 3* saying ‘I’m going to be on that wall when I leave here!’

Jon Joseph

Russ was a great a great player for the Pats when the Pats were not all that.

DumpsterFire

Oh yeah, that reminds me…a couple of articles ago you asked about P-Hill and my connection. Other than playing against you (notice I never said winning) I only used it as an example so I didn’t use up my allotment of Creswell references.

Charles Fischer

This is a FOOTBALL Mt. Rushmore, and if it was all-sports…it would get complicated. Because of all-sports, it would be Mariota, Ionescu, Prefontaine and Ashton Eaton for me. So many great choices!

An Oregon Coaches Mr. Rushmore? Lots of candidates there with Bowerman, Robert Johnson, Len Casanova, Hugo Bezdek….and where do you place current football coaches?

Football players only? Fouts, Harrington, Mariota and Kenny Wheaton. (without him,we do not have football now as we know it)

ptdduck

This is a welcome relief from all of the politics.

My fab four:
Musgrave, Harrington, Mariota, Herbert

-Musgrave launched Oregon from a consistent loser to consistently making bowl games.
-Harrington raised the national profile of Oregon. 25-3 as a starter, 3 bowl wins.
-Mariota kept Oregon at the top. 3 bowl wins, NC appearance, Heisman winner. The GOAT.
-Herbert took Oregon from the bottom back to the top playing for 3 different coaches. Won the Rose Bowl.

Last edited 28 days ago by ptdduck
DumpsterFire

Ya know, maybe at the end of this we should do a little math and see who the top four are…the consensus additions to “Mt. Duckmore”…

Mike West

Joey
Ngata
MM
LMJ

Jon Joseph

AOK

DuckUp

Marcus, Joey, LMJ, and Ngata

Pocketchange

Keanon Lowe, MM, Kenyon Barner, Dixon

Steelheadman

Well Chip Kelly changed everything. Dennis Dixon should have won the first Heisman. Mario has changed everything about recruiting and will end up getting us our first National Championships. Tough call.