Where Are They Now: Dan Fouts
This is the first installment of Where Are They Now, a weekly feature that showcases Pac-12 alumni and their accomplishments past and present.
First up is Dan Fouts, former Oregon Duck and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He set 19 school records as the Ducks' quarterback from 1970-72, including the records for career passing yards (5,995) and total offense (5,871). Fouts, who lives about two hours from Eugene in Sisters, Ore., is now an NFL analyst for CBS and Westwood One radio, and does college football play-by-play for Sports USA radio.
Sarah Kezele (Pac-12.org): What was it like playing for Oregon back then?
Dan Fouts: It was great. We had great coaches. Jerry Frei was our head coach. Our offensive coordinator was John Robinson. Our running backs coach was Bruce Snyder. Our defensive backs coach was George Seifert. My freshman coach was John Marshall, and Gunther Cunningham was our graduate assistant, so all those men went on to bigger and better things at the pro level. We were really well coached, had a lot of talent, especially on offense, and we played exciting football.
SK: The Oregon program has progressed tremendously and really evolved over the last couple decades: What would you say the main differences are between when you were there and the current program?
DF: You just said it: It's grown to be a national program now, thanks to some great donors and a lot of enthusiasm. I think you have to give [former Oregon coach] Rich Brooks a lot of credit for getting the Ducks to the Rose Bowl. That really started the fundraising and got things going, so the facilities are the best in the nation and they're able to recruit because of it.
SK: Is it safe to assume you didn't get a new uniform every three days when you were there?
DF: (Laughs) We had a new uniform every year.
SK: I know you were back a couple years ago as an honorary coach, but have you been back to campus recently?
DF: I get to campus once or twice a year. I have been involved with some things academically and, as you said, I was an honorary coach for the spring game two springs ago. I go to a basketball game as well, and track is always fun to go to at Oregon, so whenever I get a chance I try to get back there.
SK: Autzen was pretty new when you started there. How different is the atmosphere today from how it was back then?
DF: There are quite a few more people in the stadium, so that makes it a lot louder. It was a brand new stadium. We did have trouble filling it, but the crowd was always very supportive and very loud—as loud as they could be—but nothing compared to what it is today.
SK: After Oregon you went to the Chargers and had an incredible pro career. How did playing at Oregon prepare you for your professional career?
DF: We ran a pro-style passing game at the University of Oregon, so I felt comfortable doing the same type of things when I got to San Diego. I had a couple of great breaks in San Diego: The first one was my rookie year working behind Johnny Unitas. My fourth year, Bill Walsh was my offensive coordinator. Then two years later Don Coryell became my head coach, so those three men had a lot to do with my development.
SK: Playing for Don Coryell probably didn't hurt.
DF: Well, Sarah, you wouldn't be talking to me right now if it weren't for Don Coryell.
SK: It's a natural move for a lot of athletes to move into TV or radio after playing, but your father was also in TV and radio. Did that influence you to move in that direction?
DF: Absolutely. He absolutely influenced me. My first exposure to football was sitting beside him in the press box at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco while he was the voice of the 49ers, so before I was ever a player I was sitting in a broadcast booth next to my dad keeping stats for him.
SK: How do you like being in the booth versus being on the field?
DF: There's no comparison, but both are great jobs. I love what I'm doing now, and when I was playing I thought that was as good as it could get, so I've been lucky in both professions to have long careers and be able to enjoy them both.
SK: Do you ever miss the pressure or miss being on the field when you're watching the games?
DF: There are times when you just reminisce about how much fun it was and, at times, how much pressure it was and how you deal with it. And I try to keep in mind those feelings when I'm analyzing games as well, so when I see a guy take a team down with a two-minute drill, I just say, "Boy, that is as much fun as it can get."
SK: Is it hard for you to stay neutral when you cover Oregon?
DF: No, I have to be as neutral as possible, but everyone knows I'm a Duck, so no matter what I do, the people that don't like the Ducks are not going to like me. I know that that's the reality, so I try to play it as straight down the middle as I possibly can, but you can't please everybody. I'm going to call the Cal-Oregon game this year in October (Thursday the 6th) for Sports USA radio. My analyst will be John Robinson, another Duck.
SK: If you could pinpoint one moment, what would you say the best moment of your football career is?
DF: I don't think it happened on the field. I think it happened when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame because that meant everything that I did on the field was recognized.
SK: Not to mention the class you were inducted in: Walter Payton, Bill Walsh, Chuck Knoll, those guys.
DF: Yeah, I'm very happy to be inducted with those guys, and don't forget Larry Little as well. We're down to three now—we lost Bill Walsh [in 2007]—so it's sad when you think about it, but it's a great class, and I'm very proud of that.
You can catch Fouts next on Sunday, Sept. 11 on CBS for the Tennessee Titans at the Jacksonville Jaguars; then Monday, Sept. 12 on Westwood One radio for the Oakland Raiders vs. the Denver Broncos.