FAIRBANKS—There are many reasons the University of Oregon went 12-0 in the NCAA Division I football regular season and is playing next month in the Tostitos Bowl Championship Series National Championship game.
One of those reasons is its scout team players, and one of those players is redshirt freshman Dane Ebanez from North Pole.
The wide receiver is the first Alaskan to be involved with a program that’s playing for a BCS national title. The 2009 North Pole High School graduate, though, isn’t awed that No. 2-ranked Oregon is facing No. 1-ranked and 13-0 Auburn at 4:30 p.m. AST on Jan. 10 in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
“(Head) coach (Chip) Kelly continues to give us speeches about the vision we have for becoming a great team,” Ebanez said recently by cell phone. “Being in the national championship game is not a surprise to us as scout team players. It’s awesome, but at the same time we expected it. We’re glad to be along for the ride and to help the team out any way we can.”
Scout teamers don’t get the spotlight; but to a team playing for the national title, they’re just as important as a Heisman Trophy candidate running back — which Oregon sophomore LaMichael James was this season.
Being on the scout team also is a constant audition to play for real. Scout teamers believe if they work diligently, it’s going to show in their teammates who start on the varsity squad.
“All of the scout team’s players understand that if they want to get out on the field, they have to keep working hard every day” said Ebanez. “In the process of wanting to get better, we’ve got to give them (varsity) good looks. The mentality is awesome and that’s why we (Oregon) are where we are.”
Ebanez stood out this season among the 52 scout teamers on Oregon’s 117-player roster, as the 5-foot-9, 176-pounder recently received the Ducks’ Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year honor.
The 20-year-old human physiology major was humbled by the award, particularly after earning a spot on the roster a year ago as a walk-on.
“I would like to just get to be better as a player,” Ebanez said. “It wasn’t what I was striving for, but I feel honored to be part of a program and surrounded by guys who want to get better, and that makes me better.
“They’re counting on me to make the scout team go hard and give our best effort to help the team.”
Oregon’s wide receivers have a coach, Scott Frost, who has helped them understand what it’s like to play for a national championship. He was the quarterback of Nebraska’s 1997 national title squad.
“His experience on the field has made the players confident in what he has to say,” Ebanez said. “He does not see us as walk-ons, he sees us all as players. I appreciate everything he’s done for us and for me personally.”
He has a similar sentiment for the North Pole coaches.
“Coach Henert had a unique way of instilling a work ethic,” Ebanez said of Patriots head coach Richard Henert. “He always wanted us to work hard in the offseason; he wanted to work hard for ourselves and not just what the coaches wanted us to do.”
Ebanez will be on the sidelines on Jan. 10, but his entire career with Oregon hasn’t been spent there.
He got playing time in a 69-0 win over Division I-AA Portland State on Sept. 18 in Eugene, Ore.
“I wasn’t thinking about anything else except that I got play at Autzen Stadium,” he recalled. “What was important to me then, as it now, is that I got to help the team win.”
CAMPUS TRAILS: Sophomore center and Monroe Catholic graduate Michael Stepovich contributed seven points and four rebounds for Pierce College (Wash.) in a 58-56 win over Umpqua College (Ore.) on Sunday in the Dale J. Bates Invitational basketball tournament in Eugene, Ore. Umpqua freshman guard Tyson Hayward from Metlakatla had two points and a rebound. In the same tournament, sophomore guard and Lathrop grad Nathan Wilson had three rebounds, three assists, two steals and two points during a 83-70 loss to Linn-Benton College (Ore.) ... Northwest Nazarene University freshman center Kevin Rima, a Hutchison graduate, contributed nine rebounds and six points to a 106-69 win over Walla Walla College (Wash.) on Saturday in Nampa, Idaho ... Sophomore guard and Lathrop graduate Gralin Paul had game-highs of 27 points and eight rebounds for Green River Community College in a 107-84 win over Northwest Indian College (Wash.) on Dec. 7 in Auburn, Wash.
• Freshman left wing/defenseman and Lathrop grad Nona Letuligasenoa is among three Alaskans on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute women’s hockey team — the only NCAA Division I women’s program with three players from the 49th state.
Letuligasenoa, who has played 19 games, scored her first goal in a 3-3 overtime tie against Union on Dec. 4 in Troy, N.Y.
The team’s other Alaskans are freshman left wing and Anchorage native Jordan Smelker, who leads RPI with six goals in 19 games and Amanda Castignetti, a junior defenseman from Anchorage who has an assist in 18 games.
•Freshman and West Valley graduate Anne Goering swam the fourth leg of Ilinois’ fourth-place squad (7 minutes, 38.93 seconds) in the 800-yard relay at Hawkeye Invitational on Dec. 5 in Iowa City, Iowa. She also posted 15th-place finishes in the 100 freestyle (52.67) and 200 freestyle (1:54.41).
Denver senior Caleb Severns, a Lathrop grad, placed 10th in the men’s 100 backstroke in 50.66 seconds and 12th in the 200 backstroke (1:50.64).
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 459-7586.