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Embracing Oregon Ducks football history hasn’t really been a feature in the last two coaching regimes in Eugene. That’s not to say that coaches like Mario Cristobal or Willie Taggart showed any disregard for Oregon legends of the past, but rather that they didn’t make an openly concerted effort to celebrate the Oregon lore.
Dan Lanning is actively changing that.
On Tuesday night, it was announced that he has invited Duck legends Alex Molden and Walter Thurmond III to come back to campus and watch the Spring Game. On Wednesday, TE Ed Dickson was added to that list as well. Lanning is also having De’Anthony Thomas, Arik Armstead, LaMichael James, and Haloti Ngata on the field as honorary coaches during the game.
According to the first-year head coach, it’s all about recognizing what came before and celebrating those who took the Ducks to new heights.
“I know this program was built on players like those guys,” Lanning said on Tuesday. “Legends, they’ve really put in blood, sweat, and tears for Duck football and we want to do everything we can to reconnect those people with our program.”
I asked Lanning if this was a new wrinkle in the spring game that he expects to continue years down the road, assuming that it will be a success.
“I don’t completely know that answer,” Lanning said. “Obviously, they’ve gone on to have great careers and we’re gonna have a lot of players in the future that go on to do the same thing. And we want them back around our program as much as possible.”
The Oregon Spring Game on April 23 will be just one of many athletic events on campus throughout what is being called “Duck Day.” Track and Field will host the Oregon Relays throughout the day at Hayward Field with the first event set for 10 a.m., and fans can watch the soccer team’s 11 a.m. spring exhibition vs. Seattle U at Papé Field before walking over to Autzen Stadium.
Fans can then stroll on over to PK Park following football for the Oregon baseball team’s game against Washington State at 3 p.m., and then over to Jane Sanders Stadium to watch the Ducks’ softball program take on Washington at 5 p.m.
For his first official event as the Ducks’ head coach, Dan Lanning and the Oregon program are going all out. A host of the top recruits in the nation will be on the sideline for the game to soak in the Autzen Stadium atmosphere, and while there is an emphasis on getting the young guys to fall in love with the program, the old guard will be in attendance as well, watching on and hopefully appreciating a bit of what they helped to build in Eugene.
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