Let It Begin

Head coach Chip Kelly runs onto the field with players prior to kickoff against UCLA (Photo credit: Kirby Lee/US Presswire)

Craig Loper, EDN Sports

When the Oregon football team starts spring practice today it will have been exactly 92 days since the Ducks have been in action. And much like last spring, Oregon fans are highly anticipating another successful season in which their team will compete for a national championship.

Head coach Chip Kelly runs onto the field with players prior to kickoff against UCLA (Photo credit: Kirby Lee/US Presswire)

Tough life for a fan, right? While most fans and teams around the country would be perfectly content with making a bowl game, we here in Oregon have begun to see things a little differently.

In the past three years much has changed when it comes to the expectations of the football program. No longer are the days when Oregon fans would say “I think we have a shot this year,” or “We have a lot of guys coming back, we should be pretty good.”

Nope, that’s in the past. The Oregon football culture has taken a dramatic shift; and being just average isn’t accepted anymore. Now we all seem to expect greatness. We expect to compete for a “natty” each year, we expect to dominate our competition, and we expect to be in the national conversation for something else besides our jerseys.

But where did all these expectations begin to take shape?

Mike Bellotti with players of the 2007 Oregon Ducks football team (Photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

There’s no doubt that Rich Brooks and Mike Bellotti built the foundation for the Oregon program, but as one former player told me, “We always had a lot of great talent but guys didn’t quite really get it. Coach Kelly came in and changed all that.”

In his three year tenure at Oregon, Chip Kelly has just six losses, a national championship appearance, three straight BCS games, three conference championships and one rose bowl.

Not too bad.

Kelly has undoubtedly elevated the program to an elite level whilst creating a buzz around Eugene and the entire university that has never been felt before. And he’s done it with an attitude and swagger that is summarized in three small words.

Win the day.

Kelly’s motto has taken over the Oregon culture ever since its inception in 2009. At first it may have seemed like something only those within the program would say but Kelly, and his quick-hitting one-liner personality, has turned three words into a motto that motivates us all.

Win the day.

Three simple words that carry weight beyond their number of letters.

You can feel it everywhere. As soon as you enter the facilities, when you sit down in Autzen, when you turn on the TV to watch, when you put on your favorite Duck jersey each Saturday, when you talk with your friends and when you scream for a touchdown, it’s there.

The confidence of knowing that no matter what challenges the season or off-season seems to bring our way, our Ducks respond because all that matters is today. No matter who needs to be replaced that season, we have someone else waiting in the wings and improving each day.

Many believe Kenny Wheaton's "the pick" launched Oregon football into its era of dominance.

We’ve never had the top recruiting class in the country or the most talented teams, but what coach Kelly has taught is that we always have today, and an opportunity to win it.

Forget the eye-popping offensive numbers, the jaw-dropping lack of time of possession and the surprisingly-good defensive numbers. While it all helps, it’s today that stands alone. What coach Kelly has made us all believe in is that today serves as an occasion to improve, to turn a weakness into a strength, and to make a strength even stronger.

Regardless of what the experts say and write about matchups and showdowns, the only matchup that should be talked about is the one in which the day brings.

With three words Kelly has turned Oregon into a team to be proud of, a team to root and cheer for with passion, and a team that isn’t solely known for uniforms anymore.

So while other programs and fans across the country may already be looking forward to their conference championship or bowl season remember, Oregon fans, to do one simple thing: Win the day.

Follow Craig on twitter at @cloperII

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