When CJ Verdell isn’t leading the Oregon Ducks running back room or chasing after LaMichael James’ in the record books, he enjoys a relaxing Sunday watching football on the couch.
This year, however, is a little different for the Pac-12’s leading returning rusher. His former teammate, Justin Herbert, is now the starting QB for the Los Angeles Chargers and Verdell, of course, is one of Herbie’s biggest fans.
“Gotta watch my guy every time I can,” Verdell said Wednesday.
The Chargers rookie was unexpectedly thrusted into action in Week 2 after veteran Tyrod Taylor became a late scratch due to a punctured lung. In his four games under center, the former Oregon standout has put the league on notice and even made Anthony Lynn reconsider his “backup” comments, recently naming Herbert the official starter.
If anyone knows what Herbert’s capable of, it’s Verdell. He’s been a part of Herbert’s journey in Eugene, witnessing the Oregon star take a 4-8 team in 2016 to a 12-2 record in 2019, in which the Ducks took home the Pac-12 title and secured a Rose Bowl victory.
“It’s been an amazing feeling to see that guy,” Verdell said. “I always watch and catch myself saying like ‘wow,’ I really just played with him like a year ago, it’s crazy. Just seeing him do his thing on the field at the NFL level where we all want to be, it’s just great to see.”
As Verdell prepares to lead the Ducks, who will return their top three running backs, it won’t come without some tests along the way. There will be a new face under center, likely in Tyler Shough, and the offensive line will have five new starters.
Luckily, Verdell will have a piece of advice he learned from the former Duck turned pro to help him navigate Oregon's new-ish offense.
“Never get too hyped or too excited about a situation,” Verdell said. “Because Justin, if there’s one thing I noticed about him, that no matter what the situation was he was always the same. He never got too up or too low. He always remained calm, cool and collected.”