A second chance to shine

It's not something that Johnny DuRocher ever expected to happen, but it did. One of the main reasons the 6-4, 220-pound signal-caller from Spanaway, Washington chose Oregon out of high school was because of stability at the top. Looking back on it now, DuRocher acknowledges the irony of the situation.

DuRocher was Scout.com's #1 prospect in the Northwest in 2002. During his three-season career as a starter, Johnny threw for 6,781 yards and 67 touchdowns while leading Bethel High School to a 34-5 record and three SPSL South titles. DuRocher was a three-Star recruit and the 34th-best prep quarterback for the class of 2003. He was also the Tacoma News Tribune's Player of the Year and played in the prestigious 2003 U.S. Army All-American Bowl

His resume wasn't unlike that of some other prep quarterbacks that have come from that area. Billy Joe Hobert and the Huard brothers immediately come to mind. And while those players chose to stay home to play collegiately, there was something about the situation at Washington that didn't sit well with Johnny or his family.

"Well, the first reason I didn't come is that I wanted to play for the same coach, and I never thought that Coach (Rick) Neuheisel would be there my whole career. So that played a part," DuRocher told Dawgman.com Thursday after verbally committing to new Huskies head coach Tyrone Willingham.

"I called Coach Willingham (Wednesday) to make sure he got a second tape that I had sent to him. We talked for about ten minutes and then he offered me a scholarship. I took it right away. He asked me if I needed some time to think about it and I told him no, so he said, 'OK, we're going to act like you are the fourth quarterback on our team.

"He just laid out his expectations for his quarterback and went over everything he felt I excelled at. He took all of that into consideration. He looked at all the little things, he's very detail-oriented. I think while I was at Oregon, that's how I was taught the position by people like Kellen Clemens and Jason Fife. I'm extremely happy and extremely grateful that Coach Willingham is giving me an opportunity to play here."

DuRocher joins QB's Casey Paus, Isaiah Stanback and Carl Bonnell in the Husky lineup. Bonnell defeated DuRocher and the Braves during their senior seasons, and while Bonnell waited until the following May to graduate from Kentwood High School, DuRocher was just days away from enrolling at Oregon - the school he chose to attend over the Huskies.

Nearly two years later, DuRocher has decided to do something no Oregon football player would dream of doing - play for the purple and gold. But Johnny isn't dwelling on that nowadays.

"I was excited," he said when asked about his decision. "It's something I've waited 3 or 4 months for. When Coach (Keith) Gilbertson got fired I wasn't sure it was going to happen, so I've been on pins and needles for a while. I'm just thankful that I'm going to get a second chance, and I plan to make the most of it.

"There's been a lot of indecision. This fall I had to make a big decision. I wasn't happy with the things that were going on (at Oregon), and how I was being treated as a player and as a person. I was really nervous about making it. I wanted some input from my teammates and they told me that they understood. That made me feel better, because I didn't want it to be something where they thought I was quitting on them."

At the time of DuRocher's commitment, he was mulling over ideas - worst-case scenarios. "I had a couple of other options," he said. "Coach (Andy) Ludwig called me up as soon as he got the job at Utah and he wanted me to play for him there, and Montana was great to me too. I took a visit over there and really liked it. From the start I told them that if I had a chance to go to Washington, that's what I was going to do. And that's how it worked out."

DuRocher hopes that Washington fans are good at understanding and will forgive a youthful transgression. He knows that there will be whispers around Montlake about the Huskies settling on a player perceived - fairly or unfairly - as a player that quit at Oregon.

"First of all, I'd tell them that I didn't quit. I transfered," DuRocher said, defiantly. "If they say it's because of competition, they don't know the whole situation. I just wanted to be in a fair situation where I had a chance to compete and I think there I wasn't offered a fair chance. It got to the point where I didn't get along with the head coach (Mike Bellotti) anymore.

"And if anybody thinks I'm not ready to compete, they don't know me as a person or as a football player, and hopefully in the spring I can put all those questions to rest. I miss the state a lot, I miss being home. I found myself watching games on TV and I know a lot of the players on the team. I just really missed playing in front of my family and there's something to be said for playing in your home state. I'm ready to come back home and just play some football."

What will UW fans see from DuRocher this spring after he finishes up his Associates degree at Pierce College? "I won't take it for granted, that's for sure," he said. "I'll play with a lot of competitiveness and will put in the time to be a good player." When DuRocher steps on campus and enrolls at Washington in the spring of 2005, he will have three years to play three.

"Hopefully my play will speak for itself. I'm not asking for anything, other than a chance to go out there and compete."

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