Oregon's Stuckey Blossoms In Time For Rose Bowl
By Miral Bessed
Four years ago a group of friends made a pact to take their team to at least three BCS bowl games. As ambitious of a goal as it was, they have done it. Among many university seniors, the group included Oregon senior Dewitt Stuckey.
On December 2, the Ducks claimed the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game title with a 49-31 win over UCLA.
"To me it's like a Super Bowl," said Stuckey, middle linebacker for the Ducks. "It's a beautiful way to go out as a senior with my last game at Autzen Stadium. To be able to have that experience is something I will always cherish and remember."
The win secured a spot for the Ducks to play the Wisconsin Badgers on January 2 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
For Stuckey, the closing of his career is bittersweet. While graduation is a big achievement for Stuckey, a sociology major, parting with his teammates and coaches will be tough.
"We are a tight-knit group," said Stuckey. "Everyone who is here, they get it. They know that you have to go to class. You have to do little things to make big things happen."
Stuckey, however, had to do more than just little things. He had to overcome setbacks and injuries over the last five years.
As a freshman, his weight was less than ideal for a linebacker.
"He had to face criticism and worked hard to hit his target weight," said Nick Cody, an offensive lineman for the Ducks. Cody is also one of the seniors in Stuckey's graduating class and has seen him work hard to become a vital part of Oregon's defense.
"Stuckey has stepped up and become a great leader," said Nick Allioti, Oregon's defensive coordinator. "He is one of our top tacklers, has made a bunch of great plays for us and that is a great story about a guy that persevered and now is one of our stars."
During the 2011 season, Stuckey has been a pivotal member of Oregon's defense with 66 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and an interception. As a result, he was awarded the Dudley Clarke Memorial Award as Oregon's most improved player.
Considering the academic workload, it is often a challenge to perform well on the field and in the classroom. For Stuckey it has become a daily routine. According to Stucky, the workload never changes regardless of playing a normal season game or a championship game.
"Its something that you have to juggle and have to handle through the whole season," said Stuckey. "So each time it is just like a normal week and a normal game."
As the college football season winds down, most players get to relax and enjoy some time outside the pressure cooker. For Stuckey that's not the case. After the Rose Bowl, he will not have much time to celebrate.
"I will be too busy to treat myself," he said. "I will probably be finishing school and getting ready for the real world if football doesn't work out."
But for the time being, there is still one more game to play and he doesn't only want to win it for himself, but for his fellow seniors, his coaches, and his family who have been his biggest fans and have helped him flourish as an athlete and as an individual.
On the night of Oregon's Pac-12 Championship victory, Stuckey was easy to spot with the biggest smile and a rose in hand. His perseverance, both on and off the field, is a living image of the Oregon Duck's mantra to "Win the day."