Ducks, Buckeyes Have Different States Of Mind

The lifeblood of Ohio State's football program is the talent found in the powerful high school gridiron programs around the state, one reason why more than half of the Buckeyes' starters are Ohioans. For Rose Bowl opponent Oregon, it's a different dynamic, however. Only one UO offensive or defensive starter is an Oregonian, leading to an interesting dynamic in the Pacific Northwest.

Just how many transplants are on the Oregon football team? Even the mascot is from California.

Yes, the duck you'll see on the sideline during Friday's Rose Bowl is, in fact, an adaptation of Donald Duck thanks to a deal struck in the 1940s and formalized three decades later between the university's athletic department and Disney.

As such, one would say the Duck truly hails from the Anaheim, Calif., theme park Disneyland, giving him another thing in common with the bulk of the Oregon roster.

Of the 22 listed offensive and defensive starters in the Ducks' postseason media guide, 13 of them hail from the Golden State, but only one – left tackle Bo Thran – is actually from Oregon.

"It's a little bit (weird)," said Thran, who hails from Gresham, Ore. "Coming down here and being the University of Oregon, you'd think you'd have more people from the state of Oregon. But it's great to come here and represent the state."

Even adding in kicker Morgan Flint, who is from Bend, those representing the state will mostly not be from the state. In contrast, the Ohio State starting lineup should feature 14 natives of the Buckeye State, yet another distinction between two programs who enter "The Granddaddy of them All" cast in many ways as diametric opposites.

Ohio State is known nationally as a football power with a distinct tradition and Oregon more a Johnny-come-lately despite some excellent players throughout its history like Norm Van Brocklin, Dan Fouts and Bobby Moore (better known now as Ahmad Rashad).

Then there are the styles of play each team will employ Friday – Ohio State's signature unit is its defense, while Oregon is known for an offense that puts up eye-popping numbers – and something as obvious as the radically different uniforms each team will wear. But perhaps there's nothing that gets to the root dissimilarities in the programs quite like the geographic breakdown.

"We wouldn't have a team if we didn't have the guys that we do from Ohio," OSU linebacker Austin Spitler said.

In many ways, playing football at Ohio State is the pinnacle of the sport for many kids growing up in the pigskin-mad state. Many of the Buckeye players on the roster have been known for their gridiron exploits since their early high school days, first making a name for themselves in football-mad locales throughout the state and then seeing their notice rise throughout the region.

"It starts with high school football in Ohio," said Spitler, a native of Bellbrook. "It's arguably in the top three states for high school football. Everybody knows who you are as soon as you make your name in high school. It's ridiculous. Football in Ohio, they put you on this plateau. It's a fun thing to be a part of."

Things are slightly different for Oregon, which actually has three times as many starters from Idaho – linemen Carson York, Mark Asper and Brandon Bair – as from the Beaver State. In all, only 25 team members in the postseason media guide are listed as Oregon natives.

Though perhaps the best player in Ducks' history, quarterback Joey Harrington of Portland, was a hometown boy, there simply isn't the talent base for a nationally competitive program in the state. As a result, Oregon gets much of its talent from nearby states, specifically California, so many of the Ducks have come full circle in returning to their home state for the Rose Bowl.

Still, one of those players – UO senior tight end Ed Dickson of Bellflower, Calif. – said he considers Oregon his second home.

"The state of Oregon has supported us through thick and thin, through (the loss to) Boise State and through the last game of the season," he said. "We're representing Oregon as a whole and want to bring back a championship for the state of Oregon."

Still, Dickson admitted at first that it was tough to adjust to living in Eugene.

"I think when you're a freshman, you don't really get it, but when you're a senior like myself you really understand what it means to be a Duck," he said. "It's a tremendous honor for myself to have been a Duck and played at the University of Oregon. I'm always going to be a Duck."

And when listening to Spitler, it becomes clear that when everything is said and done, the Ducks and Buckeyes aren't so different after all. No matter from where they hail, all are here to play for their states.

"We really pride ourselves in representing Ohio to the best of our ability," the linebacker said.

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