Oregon Ducks Football: Catching Up With Oregon Commentator Mike Jorgensen


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Mike Jorgensen has witnessed it all. From his playing days, through the Rich Brooks era, and into the Mark Helfrich era, Jorgensen — known by Oregon fans as Jorgy — knows a thing or two about the evolution of Oregon Ducks Football. We had the opportunity to speak with Jorgy about a variety of subjects ranging from Kenny Wheaton’s interception, to modern day Duck football.

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NIMA MOVASSAGHI: You’ve been a part of Oregon Football since 1981. Within the program, minus
the countless Uniform changes, facility upgrades, and wins/losses, what’s the biggest change that
you’ve witnessed?

MIKE JORGENSEN: Over the last 30+ years, there have been countless changes that have taken Duck football to the next level. New facilities, cutting edge uniforms followed by conference championships and bowl victories are just part of the changes. But one of the most important changes within the program has been the recruiting process.

Often times, major college football programs throw scholarship offers or make guarantees to the most talented and highly rated players in the country hoping they will come. Oregon painstakingly conducts a thorough evaluation of every potential student athlete, often times researching players through background checks that might include discussions with coaches, teachers, family members, janitors (you get the idea) to find those young men that fit the programs mold. Current Oregon players, who often times host recruits during their visits, are called upon for their opinion regarding whether the recruit would be a good fit for Oregon. It is an exhaustive process.

What potential student athletes have learned about Oregon is that they are more than cool uniforms and great facilities. Instead, they are about honesty, teamwork and family, which creates a unique bond and trust between players and the coaching staff. Although Oregon’s recruiting class may not rank in the top 10 each year, they are highly talented, intelligent, disciplined and mature young men that collectively have taken Oregon Football to new heights.

NM: Evidently, when Chip Kelly took over as Head Coach in 2009, during games, we were witnessing something totally new—but having known both Kelly and Mike Bellotti, did the programs’ inside culture change as much as it looked like?

MJ: Although many people might point to 2009 as the first step toward “culture change” within the
Oregon Football program, I believe 2007 was the year. Culture is how an organization functions, how a leader motivates the individuals within the organization to perform at their best with a common goal, and how leaders maximize the collective talent of players.

Oregon had just come off an embarrassing loss to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl, 38-8, and finished 7-6 that season. As a result of that loss and a need for change, Oregon set out to find an offensive coordinator with Head Coach Mike Bellotti leading the charge. Coach Bellotti hired Chip Kelly from FCS New Hampshire, and in Chip he found a coach who believes culture wins over all else. I don’t think coach Bellotti could have predicted how much things (including culture) would change. Although this hire left many fans scratching their heads, the change was immediately obvious in practice and most importantly, in games.

Fans and opposing teams soon found out that Chip Kelly’s imagination and coaching style would take Oregon to a whole new level. In 2007 (Chip’s first year as OC) Oregon was ranked No. 2 late in the season before Dennis Dixon was injured. Nonetheless, Oregon would finish the year with a resounding victory over a favored South Florida 56-21 behind redshirt freshman QB Justin Roper.

In 2008, Oregon would finish impressively with a Holiday Bowl victory over Oklahoma State and a top 10 ranking in the polls. Mike Bellotti passed the baton, and the new found culture, to Chip Kelly in 2009 and in his four years as head coach, Oregon would go 48-7 and make four consecutive BCS bowl appearances including two Rose Bowls, a Fiesta Bowl and National Championship game. It is obvious that the beat of the drum changed when Chip arrived, but credit Mike Bellotti for creating the foundation, making a fantastic hire, providing coach Kelly with tremendous talent and allowing Chip to be Chip. As coach Kelly says, “culture wins football.”

NM: Thousands of players have come through the program since you graduated in 1984—who are the 5 most talented athletes you’ve seen since 84?

MJ: Narrowing thousands down to 5 is impossible. Defining “most talented athlete” is what makes this that much more difficult. Marcus Mariota is clearly (in my mind) the greatest player to wear an Oregon Football uniform. Does that make him the most talented athlete since 1984? Quite possibly – and I would include him in my top five. Pushing him for the #1 position would be Haloti Ngata, the massive defensive lineman who completely overpowered opposing teams during his career and in my book is the best defensive lineman in Oregon history. At 6’4” and 340 lbs., he was gifted athlete that not only dominated at the point of attack while chasing down quarterbacks and running backs with his speed and athleticism. I’ve never seen anything like it in my34 years at Oregon. The same goes for offensive lineman Gary Zimmerman (I’m including 1983). Although not the size of Ngata, Zimmerman was 6’4” and 280 lbs while at Oregon

Sep 5, 2015; Eugene, OR, USA; A general view of the stadium as the Oregon Ducks play the Eastern Washington Eagles at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

NM: When the school honored the 20th anniversary of “The Pick” last October, what was the experience like for you given that you were in the Press Box on that memorable day?

MJ: Although this remains one of the greatest and most pivotal games in Oregon Football history, it
remains one of the greatest plays I never saw. As the color radio analyst, I am responsible for post game interviews with coaches and players. To ensure all radio connections were working for the post game show, it was a habit of mine to leave the press box with 2-3 minutes remaining in a game to make the long trek from Oregon’s press box to the press room in Len Casanova Center. I did this partially because the elevators are held for coaches the last three minutes of each game, which leaves only the stairs for all other media and fans to maneuver. I had only been broadcasting with Jerry
Allen for five years, so the “fan” in me was also a factor. I hated watching nail biters when it involved the Ducks, and an opportunity to beat the Huskies made it that much more important. I clearly recall getting to the press room very quickly and had plenty of time to come back onto the field to witness “The Pick,” but was too nervous to watch for fear of Washington snatching victory at the last minute. I learned my lesson and although I still leave the press box with two minutes left in the a for blowouts, I stay to the bitter end if the game is close. Yes – I have matured!

NM: Most memorable moment as a commentator?

MJ: There have been so many memorable moments over the years that I have had the honor to have
witnessed or announce with Jerry Allen. But the most memorable moment for me did not come as a commentator, but instead as a viewer. Being able to watch Marcus Mariota win the Heisman Trophy, including his acceptance speech, will always be #1 on my list. It was truly a blessing to interact with Marcus during his career at Oregon. There have been many high quality winners of the award in the past, but there has never been someone that encompasses all the qualities of Marcus Mariota. I think I can truly say that he made all of us feel as though we were part of the award.

Sep 5, 2015; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Tony Brooks-James (20) runs the ball for a touchdown past Eastern Washington Eagles defensive back Victor Gamboa (27) at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

NM: Who are your 5 players for fans to keep an eye on to have a breakout season this year?

MJ: DL Canton Kaumatule –
RB Tony Brooks – James
DB Ugo Amadi
OL Elijah George
DL T.J. Daniel