As I watch the Ducks play UCLA, the announcers say they have a special guest, and I think it's the usual Phil Knight New Jersey talk. But it wasn't—it was a man who at one time made opposing defenses shake in their cleats. Yes, I'm talking about Dennis Dixon.
There, I said the name that makes me cringe. Oregon made arrangements to fly the now-Pittsburgh Steeler to Autzen to be an honorary captain.
I, however, was not excited about seeing Dixon back in Autzen. It brought back some great memories and some not so great memories. Yes, the memories of the three fake handoffs and then a deep pass for a touchdown, or the best statue of liberty you will ever see, or the Dixon to Dickson touchdowns that made you scream "I'm a Duck and I'm proud!"
Then, suddenly, the image of "That A**hole" with hunting gear screaming "Go Cats," followed by the play were Dixon went down and brought the heart of every duck down with him.
The reason I wrote this article was that I came to the realization that our quarterback hopes rode on him. Before that, Joey never won the Heisman and he looked absolutely awful in the pros. Akili has long since faded away, but the hurt of him being a draft bust still makes Ducks fans frown. I mean, Joey is an embarrassment, but Smith got cut from the Canadian league—the Canadian league, really?
How We Got Here
Ducks fans knew that Dixon was special when he first put on an Oregon uniform. He got a little exposure early in his sophomore (redshirt) year against Houston; he ran a couple quarterback sneaks and people thought, "Well, this guy can run a few trick plays."
On Oct. 22, they got a wake-up call. Starting quarterback Kellen Clemens suffered a college career-ending injury (sound familiar?) and two sophomores, Brady Leaf and Dixon, were tossed the Oregon quarterback torch.
Leaf finished the game and Oregon got the win safely. Then the two had a Pac-10 showdown against Cal. Dixon threw for 139 yard and a touchdown. The rest is history. The passing tandem led Oregon to sixth in the nation and then got snubbed by the bowl committee. Then Oregon was upset in the Holiday Bowl.
Dixon's sophomore year was so disastrous, let's just not talk about it. He threw 14 picks and Oregon was embarrassed in the Las Vegas Bowl, not to mention those disgusting yellow helmets. Enough of that horrid year.
Dixon topped off pissing off every Duck fan by signing a pro baseball contract. This was the greatest thing to happen since man reached the moon. Dixon came into his senior season with a new offense to run and the pressure of losing his starting job but confident and ready to go.
In the season opener, Dixon had 141 yards rushing and 134 passing. The defining game came at Michigan, as the wounded Wolverines were destroyed by Dixon with 292 yards through the air for three touchdowns. Jonathan Stewart, Dixon's favorite running back, had 111 yards and the Ducks looked like the surprise of the year.
The Ducks suffered one setback against Cal, but got right back up, and Dixon was the nation's leading Heisman candidate! Then in the Arizona State game, Dixon looked great, but this is when Belotti's stubbornness got the best of him. He left his MVP quarterback in with 1:10 left, and Dixon took a routine keeper for five yards before some ASU back made a dirty tackle and—shabam—torn ACL...check that, partially torn ACL.
Ducks fans then scrambled to their computers to read the report of "a heavy bruise" on Dixon's knee. The Arizona game was supposed to be Dixon's proving ground on ESPN. Time to make those snobby East Coast Heisman voters understand that this guy is for real.
Then—boom— Dixon's in the end zone. Everything was peachy, then on a zone-read pass Dixon plants his chicken leg into the grass, turned it, and—boom—torn ACL. The announcers milked the situation by showing Dixon crying and his dad comforting him. I myself was crying like a baby. Not lying—I was sobbing.
As our season's hopes went down the drain, the team suddenly beat USF by a 56-21 margin, and that's when I realized that there will never be another Dixon, but there will always be hope. Because, in football, there will always be the ups and the downs; eventually, maybe, just maybe, there will be someone new, so keep your head up, Ducks fans, keep it up.