One Piece Of An Intricate Puzzle
by Alisha Roemeling
It seems Oregon's David Paulson was born to play football. At 6-4 and 241 pounds, he has certainly grown into the role, but it started long before size became a factor.
Growing up with two older brothers who played football and a grandfather who used to be a coach, the game has always played a part in his life.
"My parents never pushed it, but they always enjoyed it," Paulson said. "My mom's father was a football coach, and my dad played in high school. I really enjoyed watching my older brothers play as well, so you could say that football is something we all love."
Paulson played quarterback his senior year of high school, but with his size, athleticism and reliable hands he was destined to be a tight end. And when you can't determine a preference between catching passes or laying down blocks you have the appropriate mindset for the position.
"I like both in different ways," Paulson said. "Getting a block and seeing that guy spring is a really good feeling, knowing that I'm helping my teammates out to get the win. Getting a catch is really cool too; getting yourself open is a great feeling."
Even though he was raised in Auburn, Wash., and has lived in the Pacific Northwest his entire life, Oregon was not a foregone conclusion when it came to selecting a college. He had plenty of suitors, but ultimately the momentum the Ducks had helped seal the deal.
"I looked at several different places including Cal and Stanford, but Oregon's program seemed to be going in the right direction for me," Paulson said. "I also love everything about this place; the school, football program, location, everything. It's also far enough away from Auburn that I could get out on my own a little bit, but still be close enough to come home whenever I wanted. All-in-all, Oregon seemed to be the best fit for me."
When you think Oregon football, the first thing that comes to mind is speed. LaMichael James or Darron Thomas might come next. Tight end may not even be in the top 10 when thinking about Ducks football, but Paulson could change that.
"Every spring and every fall, David has gotten better and better and better," Oregon tight ends coach Tom Osborne said. "I cannot emphasize enough how much he has grown and changed into the player that he is today. Starting the spring of his second year, he really made huge progress and his third year was his best."
Paulson was rewarded for that progress by earning First Team All-Pac-10 and honorable mention All-America honors last season. He finished third on the team with 418 receiving yards and was second in total plays.
"David is one of those people who understands spacing and timing," Osborne said. "He knows where to be and when to be there, and also has great chemistry with the quarterback. David may not be the fastest person on the field but he has phenomenal hands and knows how to step up when the time comes."
"We have a lot of talented guys — running backs, receivers, tight ends and I'm just one piece of the intricate puzzle we call the offense," Paulson said. "When it's my job to step up, I will, but I'm not expecting it to be all about me or anything. We work as a team."
With the loss of many seniors from the 2010 season, the dynamics of the offense will undoubtedly change, but Paulson and the rest of the offense are focused on filling the void.
"With Jeff Maehl and DJ Davis gone this year, I have to really step up and be a leader," Paulson said. "Those guys were really good leaders for the offense, especially for the wide receivers and the out wide positions. I'll need to communicate more especially if I have a young guy out there. If I am called upon in a big part of the game I'll need to step up. Those guys made a lot of really key plays last year and if my opportunity comes up I need to be ready."
Paulson has already proven that his versatility is an asset and others are beginning to notice that he's growing into a leadership role.
"There are a lot of different roles that David can help us with," Osborne said. "David has really come out of his shell this year, and he's really trying to take on that leadership role. He has been a lot more vocal and takes the initiative to pull some of the guys aside and talk to them about a variety of things. Either in meetings, after meetings, during and after practice, or whenever to try and help some of the younger guys. It has been a huge help to us."
As the season approaches, practicing twice a day in hot August weather would seem to be a daunting task, but the players jog in from practice with smiles on their faces, joking with each other continuously. The team looks eager to play as coach Kelly shouts over the loudspeaker. The end of the summer means the start of a new football season and David Paulson is more than ready for it.
"I'm very excited for the upcoming season," he said. "Hopefully I'll get to make some key plays, but when it comes down to it, I play as a part of a team, and we all work together to achieve those wins."