Leaf's season of change.Byline: Rob Moseley The Register-Guard
LAS VEGAS Las Vegas (läs vā`gəs), city (1990 pop. 258,295), seat of Clark co., S Nev.; inc. 1911. It is the largest city in Nevada and the center of one of the fastest-growing urban areas in the United States. - My, how entering a tie game on the road with a potentially historic season on the line can change a guy's point of view.
One week, Brady Leaf was a third-string quarterback for the Ducks. Sometimes, he'd catch himself just going through the motions when preparing for games he almost surely wouldn't play in, not as the backup to both Davey O'Brien Award The Davey O'Brien Award, officially the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, is presented annually to the collegiate American football player adjudged by the Davey O'Brien Foundation to be the best of all National Collegiate Athletic Association quarterbacks. nominee Kellen Clemens Kellen Clemens (born June 6, 1983 in Burns, Oregon) is an American football quarterback who currently plays for the New York Jets of the National Football League. He was drafted originally by the Jets in the second round (49th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft. and the talented Dennis Dixon Dennis Lee Dixon Jr. (born January 11, 1985 in Oakland, California), is the starting Quarterback for The University of Oregon and is in his Senior season. Dixon was also drafted by the Atlanta Braves on June 7th, 2007 as an outfielder and spent the football offseason in the Braves .
Then, in a game at Arizona in October 2005 with the Ducks at 6-1, Clemens went down with a broken ankle. A series later, Dixon was out due to a concussion. With the score tied 21-21, the quarterback job fell to Leaf.
"I wouldn't say I felt unprepared, I just felt thrust into the position and it caught me off-guard a little bit," said Leaf, who sits atop the depth chart for Oregon entering Thursday's Las Vegas Bowl The Las Vegas Bowl is an NCAA-sanctioned Division I-A post-season college football bowl game that has been played annually at 40,000-seat Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada since 1992. against BYU BYU Brigham Young University
BYU Bob's Your Uncle
BYU Bayreuth, Germany - Bindlacher Berg (Airport Code)
BYU Beyond Your Understanding . "But we won, so you can't really fault it too much. After that game, my perspective changed a little bit, in my importance to this team. It didn't feel like I was very vital, but after that it did."
Leaf completed 5-of-10 passes down the stretch that night, for a modest 53 yards. He also threw an interception, but the Ducks went on to win thanks to a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The 6-foot-5, 231-pound native of Montana spent the next 15 games as the backup to Dixon before taking over as the starter in Oregon's Civil War loss at Oregon State in November. This month, Leaf has been firmly entrenched en·trench also in·trench
v. en·trenched, en·trench·ing, en·trench·es
1. To provide with a trench, especially for the purpose of fortifying or defending.
2. with the first-team offense in practice, when he wasn't recovering from a sprained ankle A sprained ankle, also known as a ankle sprain, ankle injury or ankle ligament injury, is a common medical condition where one or more of the ligaments of the ankle is torn or partially torn. for a couple days in early December.
Leaf has finally assumed the starting position, a job he began to prepare himself for with unfailing discipline after the eye-opening experience at Arizona last season.
"When he did have the chance to come in and get his feet wet, he made the most of the opportunity," said UO defensive tackle Matt Toeaina Matt Toeaina is an American football defensive tackle. He was selected in the 6th round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and played college football at the University of Oregon. , a senior and one of the team's acknowledged leaders. "When it finally did come for him to start, he was poised. He acted like he'd been there before. That's a big reason we have respect for the kid - he was patient and waited for his time. He worked just as hard as if he was the starter, and it all paid off."
Leaf rotated with Dixon regularly after the injury to Clemens last season. Dixon always started, but Leaf played a valuable role, directing the game-winning drive in overtime against Cal and later taking over in the Holiday Bowl, which included a last-gasp possession that ended in his throwing an interception.
In the offseason, Oregon intended to pick one of the juniors and stick with him. Dixon eventually won out, but Leaf kept that experience against Arizona fresh in his mind.
"A lot of guys would have just thrown in the towel or said, `Forget it,' ' said UO senior tight end Dante Rosario, one of Leaf's roommates. "But he stuck with it, and he prepared every week like he was going to be the guy to go to."
The Ducks went to Leaf for one series in the opener against Stanford, but he didn't play quarterback against Fresno State, appearing only in his regular role as the holder for place kicks that night.
But Leaf took snaps at quarterback in every other game, and increasingly so as Dixon began to struggle in the second half of the season. He threw 27 passes at Washington State, and 22 against both USC An abbreviation for U.S. Code. and Arizona, all losses in which Leaf was forced to throw often as Oregon tried to come from behind late in games.
He also became one of the team's unofficial spokesmen. In contrast to Dixon, who can seem uncomfortable with the media, Leaf capably assumed that role for the Ducks.
"It's part of the position," Leaf said. "If you're going to play quarterback at a Pac-10 school, you've got to be ready to deal with everything that comes with it."
Leaf's older brother Ryan, who played quarterback at Washington State and later in the NFL NFL
National Football League
NFL (US) n abbr (= National Football League) → Fußball-Nationalliga , had a couple of notable blowups with the media, experiences the younger Leaf learned from. Ryan Leaf is now a college assistant coach, and the brothers talk regularly to check up on each other and trade pointers.
But potentially a more valuable relationship for Brady Leaf as he toiled as Oregon's backup was the one he had with cousin Matt Kegel, another former WSU WSU Washington State University
WSU Wayne State University
WSU Wichita State University
WSU Wright State University
WSU Weber State University
WSU Western State University College of Law
WSU Winona State University
WSU Walter Sisulu University quarterback. Kegel was a reserve to Jason Gesser most of his career before finally taking over the starting job as a senior.
Those two talk regularly, and Kegel was able to offer words of comfort based on his own experience.
"He was always telling me, 'Stick with it,' " Leaf said. " 'Even if you're the backup guy, you'll get your shot.' "
That shot finally came against the Beavers. Leaf started and went 25-of-42 for 274 yards, with a demoralizing de·mor·al·ize
tr.v. de·mor·al·ized, de·mor·al·iz·ing, de·mor·al·iz·es
1. To undermine the confidence or morale of; dishearten: an inconsistent policy that demoralized the staff. interception that was returned for a touchdown but also a touchdown pass as part of Oregon's ultimately failed comeback bid.
His teammates, who watched how professionally Leaf handled himself as the backup, rallied behind him as the starter.
"In the fourth quarter, I felt like in the huddle I had command of the game, and my teammates were responding to me and listening to me," Leaf said. "Their faith grew a little bit when we scored that first one. I think they were like, 'OK, we can follow this guy when we need to.' '
Now, they follow him into the Las Vegas Bowl, where Leaf appears poised to make his second start.
"Everyone knows he was working hard the whole season, and prior to this season," Rosario said. "He got his chance, and I think he's proven himself."
OREGON VS. NO. 19 BYU 5 p.m. Thursday at Sam Boyd Stadium Sam Boyd Stadium is a football stadium located in Las Vegas, Nevada. The stadium is named after Sam Boyd. The stadium consists of an uncovered horseshoe-shaped single-decked bowl. Temporary seating is occasionally erected in the open north end zone as needed. , Las Vegas. TV: ESPN ESPN Entertainment and Sports Programming Network . Radio: KUGN-AM (590). Web updates: www.registerguard.com.