Justin Hoffman: Glad He Stuck Around
Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor
Justin Hoffman grew up in Eugene and was an avid follower of the Ducks as a kid. The Oregon wide receiver will even go along with the premise that he wanted to play here when he got older.
“I guess I did want to be a Duck when I was younger,” said Hoffman with a laugh. “I went to about three or four home games a year since I was born.”
But that didn’t mean coming to play at Autzen was a done deal for the 6’1, 206-pound junior. In fact, he had other ideas about where he wanted to go.
“I kind of wanted to get out of Eugene when I was thinking about colleges,” the former standout at Churchill High School claimed. “I wasn’t recruited heavily, but I could’ve gone to a few smaller schools. But the opportunity with Oregon came up, and I said, ‘Why not take a shot at it.’ That’s how I wound up staying in town.”
Hoffman is glad he stuck around, especially since he’s been able to have played during a time of unprecedented success at the U of O. He admits he didn’t necessarily think they’d ever reach the high level of playing for a BCS championship like last year.
“Well, I always think Oregon is going to be good,” said Hoffman. “I guess when I was coming to games at Autzen as a kid, I didn’t think they’d be this good. But you’re always thinking in the moment when you’re younger, and I wasn’t thinking about down the road.”
Of course, you can’t talk to Hoffman without bringing up his time at Churchill. Hoffman is one of many former Lancers, including A.D. Smith and Jordan Kent, to come have a relatively successful athletic career at Oregon.
“We just create some athletes over there,” explained Hoffman about his alma mater. ”I wouldn’t say it’s by coincidence. Churchill has a very good coaching staff, and they produce some hard working kids.”
Nor can one overlook that Hoffman also played catcher on the Churchill baseball team. So has he talked to coach George Horton about becoming a two-athlete here?
“I’ve talked to coach Horton,” said Hoffman with a huge grin. “But I haven’t talked to him about playing baseball. I did summer ball going into my senior year of high school, and that kind of made me transition more to football. There’s too many long seasons and training in baseball. I enjoy football because you get the breaks to take care of your body and stuff like that.”
Hoffman has become a steady presence for the Ducks’ receiving corps. After only catching three passes last season, he’s grabbed 10 balls during the 2011 campaign. He credits any improvements to a very rigorous work ethic.
“I couldn’t pinpoint one thing I’ve done for the past couple years,” he explains. “I don’t have that natural speed that some guys have. So, I’ve definitely worked on improving my speed and how I eat and sleep. Blocking has also been a big thing for me.”
Perhaps Hoffman’s biggest contribution has come from simply being a good teammate. Just ask someone who has known him for a long time.
“He’s always been a guy you can count on,” said senior tight end Nick Musgrove, who also played with Hoffman at Churchill. “We grew up together, going to the same schools, and our parents knew each other. So he’s always been around during my football career.”
That might be why Hoffman was so helpful to Musgrove after his longtime friend had a change of positions.
“I had never run routes before switching to tight end after years of playing on defense,” Musgrove explained. “So to have Justin show me how to run routes, as well as how to break things down, has been a big help to me. It is what makes him a great teammate.”
One would think that a guy who has rooted for the Ducks since he was born would have one special memory of his time here. However, Hoffman believes there are too many memories to single one out over another.
“It was probably when fall camp ended this year and we got the season started,” said Hoffman. “That’s the best part right there. But I don’t have one great moment because there are so many awesome times I’ve had with these guys.”
Hoffman is also optimistic about his team’s chances going down the stretch. Oregon has suffered injuries to several key players at times this season, but still finds itself ranked sixth in the nation going into a critical game against Stanford. He believes that, even more so than the depth itself, the way guys have practiced is why they’ve weathered the storm.
“It goes to show how we prepare as a program,” he stated. “We’re not just getting the ones ready, but have the guys behind us paying attention on working to get better. I think that’s important, because you will have injuries. So to have guys who are watching out from behind is critical.”
He also thinks his Ducks can successfully defend their Pac-12 conference title if they raise their level of play on a weekly basis.
“We just have to keep elevating our game,” Hoffman said. “We see a lot of teams kind of level off during the year. So when you get to this point of the season, you’ve got to keep turning those reps up and get better.”
As for Hoffman’s own personal goals, he simply wants to get better as the year goes along.
“I just want to stay healthy and keep improving,” he explained. “I want to compete and get something new in my game every single week.”