Without the ability to be at practices, it is difficult for many of us to form opinions or even tell good stories.
Two years ago, prior to practices closing, as I sat at a summer afternoon practice, I watched Tony Washington toiling away by himself as he worked his way around an injury. I wrote an article about that day and posted it right here. Toiling in Obscurity was just one of what could be hundreds of similar stories.
This week the 2013 football season begins. While the outcome of the game is not very likely in question in week one, what is in question is just which players will burst into the attention of the average fan and which ones will contiunue to toil in obscurity.
One of the projected offensive line starters, Mana Greig, was a lightly recruited player out of high school. He lacked the ideal height of a college offense lineman and his lack of offers was plenty of proof. Over the years, Greig, like so many other young men, worked and struggled to become a better player. Saturday, he walks onto the field as a starting offensive lineman for one of the premier offenses in all of college football.
Remember, though, that Greig is just one of dozens of players on the Oregon roster who has worked very hard to become what he is today.
Remember that because on the other side of the field Saturday, Nicholls State will enter Autzen with its own cast of players who toil in obscurity for the sake of an education and, for some, their outside dreams of someday making it into the NFL.
Oftentimes fans, in their zeal to cheer for their home team, forget that both teams have some very unique characters who work just as hard. Nicholls State stands little chance of putting up much fight against the Ducks. At Duck Sports Authority, we covered the topic in a two part series called DSA Inside Edge which takes a look at the match-ups.
Despite the talent gap, though, one thing seems too frequently missed; the effort gap is considerably smaller. The Nicholls State administration sees it as an important piece of their athletic department puzzle to schedule on field demolitions to fund the rest of the department. Nicholls State, and dozens of similar schools do not have the luxury of a Phil Knight or an Al Reser. They exist to provide an opportunity to young men and women who otherwise would not receive an education precisely that opportunity.
Nicholls State plays their home games at Manning Field at John L. Guidry Stadium; a stadium with a 12,800 seat capacity. That is a far cry from the 60,000 people that can squeeze into Autzen.
These young men will come to Autzen with their heads held high looking to compete and play to the best of their ability. And, as they head out of the Stadium Saturday, likely a team suffering a very large loss to open the season, will they retain their dignity?
That is a difficult question to answer. Having been on their end of slaughters when I played at Eastern Oregon, I can tell you that there is nothing fun about these games for either team. Yes, Duck fans will get a chance to cheer for guys like Dustin Haines and Lane Roseberry. But are those fleeting cheers worth the cost associated with this kind of game? Only a few people can answer that on Saturday,.
I doubt that they will answer honestly, however.
In the end, it is a chance for these young men to compete in a stadium that is unlike many on the West coast. Hopefully they can cherish some memories of the entire Autzen complex and dream of what might have been or could someday be in their own lives.