For all the big games in Oregon Duck football, from the 1995 Rose Bowl to the 2001 Fiesta Bowl to the 2012 Rose Bowl, one nasty stat keeps popping up.
Opposing quarterbacks, with one exception, have moved on to greater fame than Oregon quarterbacks.
Joey Harrington is the exception.
He moved to Detroit after college. You can decide how great that was, but it was more than his opposing quarterbacks at Colorado did after their Fiesta Bowl.
Craig Ochs and Bobby Pesavento might be household names somewhere, just not any Oregon houses.
The Joey legend includes being drafted #3 by the Lions when they were horrible, with eventual stops along the southern route of Miami, Atlanta, and New Orleans, before flying home. He had his shot and took it like a man, which is more than you can say for the Lions under Matt Millen.
From wiki: "After his playing career, Millen was President and CEO of the Detroit Lions from 2001 until 2008. His eight-year tenure as head of the franchise led to the worst eight-year record in the history of the modern NFL (31-97), and resulted in his termination on September 24, 2008."
How have other big-game Oregon quarterbacks done?
Danny O'Neil vs Kerry Collins, 1995 Rose Bowl
After a record setting game in the loss, O'Neil went undrafted by the NFL, though he did make the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.
On the other side, Penn State's Kerry Collins played sixteen years in the NFL, beginning with the Carolina Panthers. He had the sort of career befitting the #5 overall pick, the sort of career Joey Harrington might have had without Detroit. After passing over 40,000 yards, good enough for eleventh place on the all-time list, he retired.
Game ball to Collins.
Masoli's Rose Bowl stats, 81 yards passing, 9 yards running, didn't earn him a place in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. His campus activities did cost him a place on the Oregon Ducks. He left school, finding his future in the SEC with Ole Miss. Like O'Neil, Masoli went undrafted by the NFL.
Pryor didn't leave THE Ohio State in better shape than he found it. The rewards he got for his choices outside the bright lights and cheering crowds include a ban from contacting his school and players, Coach Jim Tressel's job, and NCAA sanctions.
With the markings of NFL success all over him, Pryor caught the eye of the Oakland Raiders in the supplemental draft, becoming the last choice of Al Davis' storied life. Al must have told Pryor, "Just win, baby."
Before hanging another Super Bowl banner in Oakland, remember this is the same team that made LSU superstar JaMarcus Russell the #1 pick of the 2007 NFL draft. Thirty one million guaranteed dollars later, they're still waiting for that one to pan out.
Game ball, under lock and key, to Pryor.
Darron Thomas vs Cam Newton, 2011 BSC Championship Game
After replacing Jeremiah Masoli and guiding the Ducks to the biggest game in school history, then coming back big the next year, Thomas went undrafted and unsigned by the NFL.
Cam Newton's career took an opposite turn. It includes a suspicious laptop like Masoli and investigations of illegal money deals like Pryor. Unlike other career dips and walks of shame, Newton's also include a Heisman Trophy and D-1 National Championship, which will always be under a cloud in Oregon.
His first college game for Auburn? Arkansas State, who opens against Oregon Saturday.
Like Kerry Collins at #5, Newton was also drafted by the Carolina Panthers. He was the #1 pick of 2011, a season where he lit it up like no other rookie, proving he was worth every cent the Auburn Tigers were cleared of not paying.
Game ball, with an asterisk: Newton.
Darron Thomas vs Russell Wilson, 2012 Rose Bowl
Thomas threw for a school record thirty three touchdowns in 2011. He finished the Rose Bowl with 268 yards, three touchdowns, and the first win for Oregon since dinosaurs roamed Pasadena. And the NFL says no thanks, leaving him undrafted and unsigned.
Russell Wilson finished 2011 with thirty three touchdowns also, the most in Big 10 history since Drew Brees who was also measured as too small for the NFL. After throwing for 296 yards in his Rose Bowl loss, the Seattle Seahawks drafted him in the third round.
What is the 75th overall pick, a man with a Master's degree, doing on opening day in the NFL? He's starting. Coach Pete Carroll chose him ahead of LSU alum Matt Flynn.
Game ball to Wilson.
Twists and Turns
Sports are big business, but still a small world. Consider:
Matt Flynn took over at LSU from JaMarcus Russell. His Tigers beat Ohio State for the National Championship the year before Terrelle Pryor became the Buckeye starter. Ohio State and TP beat Oregon the year before the Ducks lost the National Championship on a last ditch field goal to Auburn and the Cam Newton gang of one.
A year later Oregon opened against LSU, who rode that win all the way to BCS Championship Game loss while Oregon finished big.
Which brings us up to date with:
Marcus Mariota vs Bryan Bennett, 2012 season
Mariota begins the season against Arkansas State on Saturday. He might be the next Dennis Dixon. Let's hope he's not the next Terrelle Pryor or Cam Newton, at least on the NCAA police blotter.
He's done the work. He's watched the film. He's got the attitude. Let's hope he heard Bryan Bennett's radio interview after learning Mariota will be the starter.
Bennett said he loves Eugene, loves the Ducks, that he wants to be on this team. He's not looking to transfer, not looking for a corner to hide and tend a wounded ego. He's a gamer, a guy revving up on the sidelines, ready to hit the field in high gear.
The Oregon Ducks have two guys ready to start against the same school Cam Newton faced for his first game at Auburn.
Now it's Oregon's turn. One step, one win, one day.
Game ball: Ducks.