Ducks Paysinger Right Where He Wants To Be
by Ryan Reiswig
If you're a Beverly Hills High School (Beverly Hills, Calif.) alum and you've made a name for yourself, more than likely you've done it on the big-screen. After all, the school is famous for celebrities like Jamie Lee Curtis, Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Tori Spelling, among many others.
Oregon Duck fans, however, are very glad one such alum has made his name on the gridiron rather than in front of the camera.
Entering the Tostitos BCS National Championship game, Ducks senior linebacker and Beverly Hills High alum Spencer Paysinger is second on the team in tackles, and will be one of the key cogs in Oregon's defense trying to stop Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers.
Paysinger has had a lot of time to prepare for this moment, maybe more than any other player who straps it on for the January 10 game.
"I started playing [flag football] when I was three years old," says Paysinger, an honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection this season. "The age limit was five years old, but my dad [Donald Paysinger] was the coach so he just kind of stuck me in there with my older brother."
Being from Los Angeles with a couple very well-known Pac-10 football schools within a few miles, one might wonder how he ended up at the Eugene, Ore., campus as a freshman.
"I was a SC guy," admits Paysinger, laughing. "To this day I don't really like UCLA."
However, just as his father influenced his start to playing the game, he ultimately had influence where Spencer would continue playing the game as well, even if it was unintentional.
"My dad and uncle were my football coaches in high school and the Oregon coaches would come down every year just to see some of the players they were recruiting," remembers Paysinger. "I got to know them before I was even getting recruited. When I was getting recruited by them it wasn't a new experience to me. As soon as I came up here they treated me just like everyone else. They didn't treat me like a freshman; they just treated me as a player. It was just a family atmosphere up here."
Come January 10 on the field of University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., the atmosphere will hardly feel family-like. Paysinger's Ducks will meet the Tigers in what will be the biggest football game in Oregon history, and the focus for the Oregon defense will be stopping Newton. Among the ways the Ducks plan to stop the Tiger quarterback is getting constant pressure on him.
"Getting a lot of people towards him," explains Paysinger. "He's a Heisman winner, he's a really good athlete, 6'6", about 250-260, so the key for us is not just get one person on him every time but get 2 to 3 people to the ball every time he has it."
Stopping the talented quarterback from running as well as passing is something for which Paysinger is well-suited. Being versatile is something he takes pride in, and he has a great person to practice those skills on at practice.
"I can run with receivers and running backs, guard tight ends really well, but I can also stay in the box," says Paysinger. "I take pride in guarding tight ends and shifty running backs. Me and LaMichael James [third in Heisman voting this year], we always go against each other in one on ones. I go with him and no one else."
While Paysinger feels he is adept at defending players with speed, he is anxious for his defense to have a chance to prove they can out-hit an SEC team as well. The Ducks, in week two of this season, dominated the SEC's Tennessee Volunteers 48-13. Now they get a chance to face the SEC champions on the biggest stage in college football with the whole nation watching.
"Everyone knows the SEC thinks the Pac-10 is kind of finesse, spread offenses and stuff like that," explains Paysinger. "They don't think we can play with the hard-hitting linemen or the big-nosed running backs, but I feel like we played against Tennessee and we played against the hard-nosed running against Stanford. We're just looking to show that we can play with anybody."
Growing up in Southern California and rooting for USC, Paysinger routinely watched players win accolades and teams win championships. Now being able to experience firsthand what he watched on television all those years brings Paysinger full-circle.
"The simple fact is," he says, "I'm here right now, a senior from Los Angeles, being in the national title game, it's a great feeling for me."