Rover Eddie Pleasant
Written By: Riley Danford, Oregon Media Services (11/18/2011)
Football is much more than statistics and numbers. Football is about heart, leadership and determination; exactly the kind of characteristics Oregon redshirt senior Eddie Pleasant possesses. A career defined by change and adaptation, Eddie has remained grounded and produced a presence inside the Oregon locker room that has led to a National Championship and Rose Bowl appearance in his five years as a Duck. Pleasant's attention to detail, regard for the history and past players of the program as well as a steady eye on the future have cemented him as one of the leaders and cornerstones of the 2011-12 football team.
Pleasant's journey to Oregon dates back even further than his freshman year in 2007. Rather to the year 2002 when the Ducks played in the Fiesta Bowl against future Pac-12 foe Colorado. A member of that team, Garrett Sabol, would go on coach at Kennedy High School in La Palma, Calif. where he would inherit the talents of three-star prospect Eddie Pleasant. As Eddie states, Coach Sabol's influence made all the difference in his recruitment process, "My high school coach went here; he was on the Fiesta Bowl team. They (Oregon) started recruiting me and once I got the offer at the end of my junior year he told me, 'look, you're going there'. I know he's somebody who wouldn't steer me in the wrong direction; he's somebody that I look up to." A natural landing spot for Pleasant helped by the immediate connections he made with coaches and members within the program left only one question to be answered. What position to play?
"I played linebacker (in high school) and then the next year I played running back. I went back to playing linebacker my sophomore year before moving to safety last year." A gifted athlete with a frame to meet any position standard, Pleasant's road to a rover back could be labeled efficiently tumultuous. While running back never panned out, his year at linebacker produced 54 tackles, eight of which for loss and four and a half sacks. When approached by secondary coach John Neal, Eddie was receptive to the idea of moving positions which should come as no surprise based on the kind of team player he is, "The position I played had two great back-ups in Boseko Lokombo and Josh Kaddu. There wasn't any reason for those guys to not be on the field." Pleasant is now in his second year as a starting safety where he, alongside junior John Boyett, make up the most feared pair of safeties in the Pac-12.
Certainly the Ducks are no stranger to having superb defensive secondaries. In fact, Pleasant is another Oregon safety in a long line of successful, NFL caliber, safeties and rover backs. As a freshman, Eddie was able to watch and learn from current NFL safeties Patrick Chung, T.J. Ward and Jairus Byrd. "I learned a lot from Pat (Chung), Jairus (Byrd), T.J. (Ward). Not just about the position itself but how to be a leader and how to have a good work ethic. A lot of those things that they said and did here we still follow and keep going."
While leadership cannot be quantified, Pleasant's season to date can be. He ranks fifth on the team in tackles with 46 including two for loss, one sack and a team-high three interceptions in nine games. "I'm the type of person that as long as we're winning and I'm doing my job, everything else will fall into place. Go out there, have fun, make the plays I need to make, and win. That's what it's all about."
Recently named the Pac-12 defensive player of the week for the first time, Pleasant earned the title after his five tackles and two interceptions against Washington in Seattle. The win marked Pleasant's fourth over the Huskies, something he and the program have come to expect. "It's great, it feels good. But that's not the only team we've done that to. I've never lost to UCLA, I've never lost to Arizona or Arizona St. It's just become part of the culture, we don't lose games. We have been winning and that's the kind of standard that we've set up here. We expect to win."
His tenure has seen a change at head coach, two different athletic directors and multiple position changes. However the one constant has been winning. The Ducks have posted 50 wins to just 12 losses since Pleasant arrived as a freshman, a mark that includes 19 straight conference wins and 21 in a row at home. The foundation for success is something Pleasant attributes largely to players who have come before him. "We pride ourselves on working harder than anybody when it comes to practice. That was something that Patrick Chung, T.J. (Ward) and Walter (Thurmond III) started. Always go hard, 'go hard no matter what', that was the thing we would always say. We still use it out there."
Eddie Pleasant has seen it all during his time in Eugene. Through it all, he has remained grounded and focused on winning the day without losing sight of what got him to where he is, "I give a lot of praise to my parents because if it weren't for them I wouldn't be here. I give a lot of praise to my high school coaches because they go me out there so I could do everything that I'm doing now."