There is much irony in the fact that the seminal moment in the creation of a nationwide offensive juggernaut is a defensive play. Yet, for as much as fans credit Kenny Wheaton's interception with beginning Oregon's transition into national football power, Oregon's national claim to fame has been on the offensive side of the ball. From Akili Smith and Reuben Droughns to Joey Harrington, Dennis Dixon, LaMichael James, and Marcus Mariota, offensive stars have been Oregon's showcase to the nation.
Except that first team. That 1994 Rose Bowl team that started it all. They didn't have offensive flash. Their trademark was the Gang Green defense. And it was a painful experience for opposing offenses.
The focal point of that Gang Green defense was the secondary, a unit so special that it featured three First Team All-Americans in Herman O'Berry, Chad Cota, and Alex Molden. Wheaton? The redshirt freshman was merely a backup on a team that had 20 interceptions and ranked No. 12 in the country in total defense despite playing in the shootout happy Pac-10.
Molden was a four-year starter for Oregon, ending his career with 60 passes broken up and 11 interceptions. Twice Molden was a first-team all conference cornerback. Unlike Wheaton, Molden stayed at Oregon all four years, becoming the No. 11 pick in the 1995 NFL draft, where he enjoyed a nine-year career.
The Ducks have enjoyed a lot of great cornerbacks over the years, from Chris Oldham to Molden and Wheaton, to Rashad Bauman, Jairus Byrd, Walter Thurmond, and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Molden may have been the best of them.
And the Molden legacy may not be over yet at Oregon, as over the weekend, DuckTerritory is reporting that the Ducks are already heavily recruiting Alex' son Elijah, a freshman defensive back at West Linn High School.