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Friday, November 10, 2006
On eve of big game, Ahmad Rashad recalls his days as a Duck

Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. -- To most of the country, broadcaster Ahmad Rashad is an NBA guy. In Oregon, he's a Duck.

In the early 1970s, Rashad was Bobby Moore, and an All-American running back and wide receiver for the University of Oregon.

Back then, Oregon was known mostly as a track school -- home to legendary coach Bill Bowerman and future Olympian Steve Prefontaine.

As the No. 21 Ducks prepared for a big game against No. 7 USC at the Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Rashad marveled at how far the Ducks have come on a national scale -- especially in more recent years.

He rattles off the reasons: Joey Harrington, the 2002 Fiesta Bowl, Autzen Stadium, even those state-of-the-art locker rooms.

"For any kid in the country who wants to play for a big-time program, Oregon is a real option. In the past, it hasn't been," he said.

Rashad, a Portland native, played for the Ducks from 1969-71. He set 14 school records -- most since broken -- including single-game (249 yards), season (1,211) and career (2,306) rushing marks. He played with quarterback Dan Fouts, now also a prominent broadcaster.

Back then, Oregon was an eclectic school, very "proactive socially," Rashad said. Even the football team.

"One of the coolest things was they had the 'Soul Duck,' in addition to the regular Duck (mascot). It had this big huge afro," he said.

Autzen Stadium was rarely full, he said, and Prefontaine was the king of the campus.

"When I got there, I was like 'Who is this Pre guy?" Rashad said. "He was one of the most charismatic guys I've ever met. Pre was a track star with a football player's mentality. If he could've played football, he would have."

Between his freshman and sophomore years, Rashad trained with Bowerman.

"He had me wear these funny shoes he made in his basement. There was no right or left. And the soles would only last about a week," Rashad said.

Bowerman was making the strange shoes using his wife's waffle iron. The track coach went on to start Nike with Oregon alum Phil Knight.

Rashad was the fourth pick in the 1972 NFL draft by St. Louis. He was a four-time Pro Bowler over a 10-year career, with 495 catches for 6,831 yards and 44 touchdowns.

After football, Rashad broke into television, becoming an NFL commentator for NBC Sports. But he is best known for his NBA coverage, and currently hosts NBA TV's "Tuesday Night with Ahmad" and ABC's "NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad."

He wasn't going to speculate on the outcome of the Oregon-USC game, or even make predictions on the young NBA season.

"I kind of like to see it play itself out. The joy is in watching it play out," he said. "Sports, it's like one big reality show. You never know what's going to happen."