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Danny O'Neil, Millennium Hall of Fame

October 20, 1999

If Danny O'Neil could sum up his football career in one season, he

would.

If leading the University of Oregon to the Pac-10 Conference

championship and its first Rose Bowl game in 37 years was the only memory

O'Neil had of his collegiate days, he would rest on those laurels.

But the co-MVP of the 1995 Rose Bowl, following the Ducks' Cinderella

season in the fall of '94, can't escape his junior year, when the boos

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vibrated throughout Eugene, Ore., or his sophomore year, when he led

Oregon to the Independence Bowl and "people still wanted anybody but that

O'Neil kid," he once told The Register-Guard in Eugene.

O'Neil, a former Mater Dei standout after transferring from Corona del

Mar High, would finally silence his critics in his fourth season as the

Ducks' quarterback, earning All-American honorable mention by United

Press International and setting numerous passing records in a wild

campaign.

In that unforgettable year, O'Neil was in the hospital with a

mysterious staph infection in the ring finger of his passing hand, while

backup quarterback Tony Graziani led Oregon to a televised road victory

over USC, a team O'Neil always wanted to beat (and hadn't).

It was tough for O'Neil. "All my friends would be there, my dad had

over 100 requests for tickets, and suddenly I'm not even there. I'm left

behind watching the team play great," he said.

O'Neil, who already held the Oregon single-season passing and total

offense records, thought he might spend the rest of his senior season

signaling in plays from the sidelines. He couldn't be upset if the

coaches stuck with Graziani, but it was frustrating to think it could end

this way.

"But there was no way I could let it end that way," he said before the

Pac-10 finale in 1994. "There's no way I could have lived with myself

five years down the road if I hadn't tried to get it back together."

Five years down the road, O'Neil is remembered as an Oregon hero.

O'Neil won the starting job back, led the Ducks to an upset victory

over Washington in a come-from-behind effort, threw a winning touchdown

pass in another comeback triumph against Arizona, and, in the

regular-season finale, tossed six touchdown passes and marched the Ducks

70 yards in the game's final five minutes to overtake pesky Oregon State.

It was Oregon's third comeback victory of the autumn and the team's

seventh straight win with O'Neil at the controls.

For the first time since 1948, Oregon could be mentioned in the final

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