The season opener between No. 11 Oregon and No. 16 Auburn is beginning to look like the plot of a Disney movie. Two ranked opponents in the national spotlight, led by hometown quarterbacks who have been preparing their entire football career for this moment.
Oregon senior quarterback Justin Herbert and Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix have the opportunity to write the introduction to the 2019 football season. August 31st is the beginning of Herbert’s swan song and the start of Nix’s legacy.
Herbert, the 6-foot-6, 237-pound quarterback with the ability to make any throw is a main reason Oregon is the favorite to win its first Pac-12 title since 2014. Before he was projected as a top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Eugene-native was a Ducks fan, a passion passed down from birth.
“I grew up in a family that was Duck fans for as long as they can remember,” Herbert said in a Talkin’ Ducks interview with host Jordan Kent. “I grew up with a grandfather that went to every single game and played (at Oregon). My parents both love Oregon football and my brothers, so I just assumed I had to be a Duck fan.”
Herbert’s grandfather, Rich Schwab, played receiver at Oregon from 1960-63 and introduced Herbert to Oregon football. Herbert remembers experiencing Autzen Stadium with him. As an 11-year-old, Herbert stood next to Schwab in awe during the 2009 Civil War.
“One of my favorite games was the Oregon-Oregon State civil war game with Jeremiah Masoli,” Herbert said. “I think it was third or fourth down, late in the game and he ran over a guy. I thought that was really cool.”
Schwab passed away in January of 2018, but his impact is everlasting on his grandson.
When Herbert got the call from then-Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich with an offer from the program in his backyard, he didn’t hesitate. It was a no-brainer to follow in Schwab’s footsteps. In fact, Herbert “didn’t think it was real” until he answered the call in the back of the Sheldon High School parking lot.
“I jumped on the bandwagon as soon as I could,” Herbert said. The three-star prospect had taken visits to Northern Arizona and Portland State.
In contrast, Nix was offered by 18 different schools. However, Alabama’s 2018 High School Player of the Year only had eyes for Auburn. The five-star prospect and top-rated dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class never visited any other schools.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback is following in his father’s footsteps. Patrick Nix threw for 4,957 yards and 31 touchdowns over 32 games for the Tigers from 1992-95. Patrick met his wife in college and Bo was raised a Tigers fan since birth. (Sound familiar?)
Nix is the first ever true freshman quarterback to start for the Tigers during week one of the modern era. It’s very likely that Oregon will see both Nix and back-up Joey Gatewood at quarterback on August 31.
Fittingly, Nix’s favorite Auburn memory as a fan includes the Ducks. Nix’s dream to lead Auburn to a national championship intensified while he watched the 2011 BCS National Championship game. From his seat at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, Nix cheered as quarterback Cam Newton and the Tigers defeated the Ducks, 22-19, to win the program’s first national championship game in 63 years.
Nine years later, it almost feels predestined that these two quarterbacks would meet in a nationally televised, primetime game with major legacy and conference implications on the line.
[RELATED: Ducks happy to meet Auburn quarterback Bo Nix in season opener]
The plotline of this Disney movie doesn’t stop there. Neither do the parallels: Both Herbert and Nix were coached by their fathers and will be relying heavily on their father’s advice come August 31 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. The difference? It’s in the legacy.
Stay tuned for part two.