It was a very surreal experience, one I hope I'll never forget. After making the trek from Eugene to Santa Clara California we finally arrived at Levi's Stadium, the brand new home of the San Francisco 49ers, and the site of the Pac 12 Championship Game. The game pitted the Mighty Fighting Oregon Ducks against the only team to beat them this year, the Arizona Wildcats, this time, more than bragging rights were at stake, it was for all the marbles in the Conference.
My part-time job as a radio DJ on the FM Home of the Oregon Ducks 96.1 KZEL gave my radio partner Mark Raney and I the opportunity to secure media credentials which granted me access no other fan could imagine. Heck yeah I used them to my fullest extent!
We arrived to the stadium at 2:00 pm for the 6:20 Kickoff. This allowed me chance to walk around inside the stadium without the throngs of fans that would soon pack 3/4th of the seats in the sixty plus thousand seat stadium. The stadium itself was pretty impressive with all the modern comforts and extravagance money can buy. We made our way to the field and marveled at the free cell phone charging stations, and numerous vending spots for all sorts of food items and refreshments that delve well beyond mere Hot-dogs and popcorn.
The field was in a bit of a state of disrepair having just eight days earlier hosted a Thanksgiving Day game between the 49ers and division rival Seattle Seahawks. There were uneven patches of turf that showed bare dirt in some places. Regardless, we had a great time walking around the 50 yard line, taking photos, and trying to imagine how hard a 40 yard field goal attempt actually would be.
The next thing we knew someone was testing out the stadium p.a. system and the National Anthem was being sung as a practice run. I looked over to see the source of the singing and it was former American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. She finished with a round of applause from the few people there and agreed to do a quick interview with us. Jordin was very friendly and posed for a picture with me.
We then wandered off to check out the press box and see where we'd be watching the game from. the press box was on the 8th floor that you had to ride in a secure elevator to get there and pass three security check points. The level has a large common area with tons of free food and two levels of rows of seats with media kits for each press member. We found our seats in the row closest to the window and a darn near perfect vantage point of the game.
Some time passed and we went back down to the field as some of the players arrived and started to warm up. On the Oregon sideline we spotted former Oregon Duck Ahmad Rashad. He agreed to an interview as well and we learned from him that he was an honorary Captain for the game and was nervous about Oregon's chances against the Wildcats. It was a pleasure to speak with him and when he was done we shook hands and parted ways.
Some rain started to fall and we ducked under cover and who should follow us out of the rain but Nike founding father Phil Knight. I shook hands with Phil and introduced myself and we struck up a casual conversation until the rain subsided.
When it was nearly game time, we made our way to the tunnel that lead from the Ducks locker room to the playing field. You could see from the looks on their faces the Oregon Ducks and Coach Mark Helfrich were there for business. After a few more brief words from the Head coach, the Ducks took the field with blazing fire pots exploding over their heads as they ran out of the tunnel to the thousands of cheering fans.
The game itself was a dominating effort from Oregon and the two main stories were the tenacious defensive assault from Oregon and quarterback Marcus Mariota's stellar performance that served as his final exclamation point for his Heisman Trophy resume.
With five minuets left in the game Media members are allowed onto the sidelines. We took our places behind the Ducks bench and waited for the final seconds to tick off the clock. the next thing we knew, Coach Helfrich had taken a Gatorade shower, the game was over, and we were in the center of the Oregon Ducks celebration. I somehow found my way over to Marcus Mariota and snapped several pictures. Then entire team closed in around us and we felt compelled to jump for joy with the team.
The team then made it's way to the makeshift stage and we had a front row seat for the presentation of the Pac 12 Trophy then boom, cue the confetti!
Interviews were later held in the Auditorium near the home team lockers and we sat through a deflated Rich Rodriguez at his "presser" and then the winners took the podium. It seemed to me that for a team who just won a Championship Coach Helfrich, Marcus Mariota, and Eric Dargan all appeared calm and and somewhat uneasy on the stage. Words of praise for the Wildcats were issued and credit was given to the entire Oregon team for the victory but we all knew the real hero was the quiet quaterback.
After the press conferences we went into the locker room just to be able to say we did. We lasted about eight seconds before we realized that this was THEIR moment. The locker room celebration was for them. The confetti was for us.
For more photos check out the album on our Facebook Page!
Go Ducks! Beat Florida State!