Formerly a star tailback at Thomas Jefferson High in Federal Way, Wash., Dan Meade is filling a different role for the Oregon Ducks these days.
Rather than carry the ball time after time after time, he is getting laugh after laugh after laugh from the Ducks.
“I’m the team clown,” Meade said before one of the team’s Rose Bowl practices last week. “But the way I look at it, at least I’m the team something.”
He easily could have become the team nothing had he allowed it to happen. Nicknamed “Ping Pong” early in his career because of the way the coaches bounced him back and forth from offense to defense, Meade has never been able to work into the starting lineup.
“Everybody here was like the big jock on campus in high school,” said Meade, who averaged 32 carries a game at Jefferson. “So it’s a big adjustment for everybody when they get here.”
For him, the adjustment was especially difficult because he arrived as an offensive player and was sent to defense before the first practice. That didn’t bother him, he says, except that he became a reserve fullback or linebacker “whenever we had an injury and needed the depth on either side.”
It became apparent by the beginning of his senior season that his primary on-field contribution would be on special teams. Instead of quitting the team, he concentrated on filling a role he sees for himself.
“I’m goofy,” he said. “I try to make guys laugh when they get too uptight.”
Not only is Meade well-known on the team - and now at University Studios, where he had a crowd in stitches during a 10-minute skit that he dominated with his impersonations of a handful of Jim Carrey characters, Ronald Reagan, Kermit the Frog and others.
He doesn’t, however, do a number on coach Rich Brooks. “He’s the man. I’ve never even attempted to do that. It’s like, ‘Death becomes Meade.”’
Oregon hasn’t been to the Rose Bowl since 1958, and Brooks says it’s good that some new blood is in a game long dominated by the likes of Michigan, Washington, UCLA, Southern Cal and Ohio State.
“I really believe that what you’re seeing is something that’s going to happen a little more often in the future,” Brooks said. “I think the day of the dominant team coming to the Rose Bowl year after year after year is, with the 85-scholarship limit, probably gone.”
Twice as sweet
There will actually be two Sugar Bowls played in 1995. The Sugar Bowl has traditionally been played on Jan. 1, but won’t be played on that date again until 1997.
Since Jan. 1 fell on Sunday this year, the game, like most other traditional New Year’s Day game, was moved to Jan. 2. Then, the game at the end of 1995 regular season will be played on New Year’s Eve.
Together they’ve won 1,370 games, played in 72 bowl games and won nine national titles. There won’t be any titles decided at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando today, but it’s still a dream for history buffs. A better name for the game between No. 6 Alabama and 13thranked Ohio State might be the Legacy Bowl.
It’s only the third meeting between these giants, adding a touch of mystique to a game angling for its niche on the biggest day of the season. There will be some memories of Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes when Alabama (11-1) and Ohio State (9-3) trot out for the Citrus Bowl (10 a.m., ABC).
“Coach Bryant’s name comes up when we win or when we lose,” Alabama coach Gene Stallings said. “I’m sure it’s the same things there with coach Hayes. But we’re following legends, and that’s going to happen.”
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