15 years later, Wheaton still proud; Huard not losing sleep

15 years later, Wheaton still proud; Huard not losing sleep

EUGENE, Ore. -- Damon Huard knows that Oregon fans credit him with helping change the dynamic of the Duck football program, and he doesn't care.

"I don't think about it. I really don't," he insists. "I'm not losing sleep over it."

"It" would be "The Pick" - the interception Huard threw to Oregon freshman Kenny Wheaton that sealed the Ducks' 31-20 upset over the 9th-ranked Huskies at Autzen Stadium, and helped propel Oregon to a Pac-10 Championship and a Rose Bowl berth.

 Raw interview with Wheaton | Raw interview with Huard | Game of the Decade

That was 15 years ago (October 22, 1994), but Huard is still constantly reminded of it.

"I do get some emails or text messages when the Oregon game comes around," Huard said. "I've played with some past Duck players, and they'll always remind me that, 'Hey Damon, you know before every game the first play that is put up on the jumbo-tron is The Pick.'"

"Again, I don't lose any sleep over it."

But there are plenty of Oregon fans who still dream about it.

And why not? If Wheaton doesn't step in front of that pass, the Huskies would have shattered the Ducks' Rose Bowl hopes, and Autzen might still have a ring of Port-O-Potties around the top of the bowl.

But Wheaton did make the play, and now Oregon has replaced Washington as the marquee program in the northwest.

And as hard as Huard is trying to forget about that day, Wheaton still basks in the admiration of Duck fans who constantly tell him how much joy his 97-yard touchdown has brought them.

"They tell me what they were doing on that day," Wheaton said. "That's the number one thing is to hear the stories and how it affected them."

The effect his play has had on the Oregon athletic department has only snowballed since that day.

Autzen has gone from seating 41,698 to 54,000, and there's usually at least 58,000 fans who show up every week. The Ducks built the first indoor practice facility on the west coast. Oregon also has upgraded its weight room, treatment center and locker room to the point where many claim the Ducks now own the best facilities in college football.

In Seattle, Husky Stadium is crumbling, and the Dawgs are coming off an 0-12 season.

Not all of that can be attributed to The Pick, but it certainly played a huge part.

"(Former Oregon linebacker Reggie Jordan) and I were just talking about this. We definitely take pride and we feel good about the fact of being a part of a team in '94 that some say, or most may say, made a lot of this happen," Wheaton said.

Wheaton says that he has met Huard a couple of times since the play, but the two didn't discuss it.

"He was kind of bitter about it," Wheaton said. "All the stories that I hear, about being the guy that actually picked the ball off, well you can only imagine some of the things he's gotten for being the guy that threw it."

It's interesting to note that Huard says he's never met Wheaton.

"I want to say that he played a couple of years in the NFL, but our paths never crossed," Huard said.

So either he has a short memory, or he didn't realize it was Wheaton when he met him. But it's obvious that the play bothers Huard more than he would like to admit.

He knows that Duck fans call it The Pick, and he remembers exactly how it happened.

"It was just a bad decision," Huard recalls. "It was a ball that I threw out late to the flat, and you know good things don't happen when you throw out into the flat late. And the kid jumped it, read it and ran it back."

Huard says that the only true regret that he has about the play is that he didn't make the tackle on Wheaton.

"I think I was so, 'Oh my gosh! That just happened. That ball was intercepted,' that I didn't go make the tackle. And had I made the tackle we probably wouldn't be talking about it today."

"He was a quarterback. Quarterbacks don't tackle," Wheaton said with a smile. "I was expecting him to hit me. I really was. When I made the cut I was thinking, 'Okay I'll take this hit.' I just didn't want the big guy to hit me...when I didn't get touched it was like, 'Well there's no way they're gonna catch me now.'"

And the Huskies haven't been able to keep up with the Ducks since.

KVAL Sports classic: 1999 report on one of the Games of the Decade

Raw interview with Kenny Wheaton

 Raw interview with Damon Huard