UO's new coach: Before he was a Duck, he was a Pirate

UO's new coach: Before he was a Duck, he was a Pirate »Play Video

COOS BAY, Ore. -- In the town where Steve Prefontaine never dies, all eyes are on another native son of Coos Bay.

Before Mark Helfrich was a Duck, he was a Pirate.

Long before he was the newly appointed head coach for the Oregon Ducks, he was just another one of the guys under the Friday night lights at Marshfield High School.

The year was 1992: Mark Helfrich walked the halls of Marshfield, not only a star on the field, but in the classroom.

Helfrich was student body president and graduated valedictorian.

Many believed Helfrich was headed for medical school. "He played ball in college, but he was a biology major, thinking maybe, "I'll be an orthopedic surgeon," and I think the game just got in his blood," said former Marshfield head coach Kent Weigel.

After playing quarterback at Southern Oregon, Helfrich began his coaching career as a grad assistant under Mike Bellotti in 1997.

His former coaches told KCBY News what they thought about their once star athlete now calling the shots at UO. Bill Lilley is a former defensive coach at Marshfield, and he says Helfrich was an all around good person. "It's exciting because he's such a polite and great young man, that he's done things the right way, and he's just a unique individual, intelligent and got a great sense of humor," Lilley said. "Just a great family man."

His former head coach spoke about Helfrich's work ethic, and what he has accomplished since he last suited up in Coos Bay. "He's a special young man that has worked extremely hard to get to the point where he is, to be considered for this process, and you know, part of that is because of the special guy he is and the integrity he brings to everything he does," said Weigel.

Though Marshfield won the state championship the fall after Helfrich graduated, many credit him with preparing the team for victory while he was a quarterback the previous three seasons.

Helfrich will be the first native Oregonian to serve as the Duck's head coach since John Warren in 1942.