Eric Dungy, the son of Super Bowl-winning head coach and current NBC analyst Tony Dungy, is the fresh face of this year’s Oregon receiving corps. Though the 19-year-old redshirted during the Ducks’ run to the BCS National Championship Game last season, he’s already stepped into a meaningful role for the team during his first year in uniform. The Oregon Daily Emerald caught up with the Tampa, Fla., product to talk about emerging leaders, playing on both sides of the ball and his impressions of life on the West Coast.
ODE: During the Ducks’ run to the BCS Championship Game last year, you were a redshirt. How did watching that team from the bench prepare you for this season?
ED: I just learned a lot. I learned from D.J. Davis and Jeff Maehl, just kind of how they carried themselves, how to go into big games and how to prepare for the games. Then obviously they probably had the best games on the team during the season, so seeing how they prepare for the games and watching how they stay relaxed and focused.
During the win over Missouri State, you caught your first career touchdown pass for the Ducks. After such a long wait, how did it feel to finally get in the end zone?
It was so much fun. I was so happy and all my teammates were so happy for me, so that was a really cool experience. Everybody was patting me on the head and chest-bumping me. Afterward, my mom and my dad and my cousin were all texting me and things like that, so it was just good to know everyone was happy for me. The crowd was also pretty fired up, so that was fun.
You played a lot of defensive back in high school. How is it being on the other side of the ball full-time? Do you think your experience as a defensive back helps you in running routes and understanding coverage? Do you miss hitting guys?
I don’t know if I really miss hitting people. I miss playing the ball and doing all that kind of stuff, trying to do things like that. I think it just kind of helps me understand the game and coverages and routes and just how they kind of go against each other and things like that. I think it made me a smarter player.
With the team about to start Pac-12 play, are there any games you circle on your calendar? Who presents a particularly hard challenge?
I really don’t, because being from Florida I don’t really feel like I knew much about the Pac-10 or Pac-12 until this past year, so there’s not one team where I was like, “I want to play these guys.” It’s all new to me. It’s gonna be fun.
As an East Coast guy, you decided to come all the way to Oregon to play for the Ducks. What differences have you noticed culturally? Do you think you’re a good fit for the Pacific Coast area?
Eugene’s definitely a different place from Florida. I don’t even know how to describe it — it’s just way different. But the California people just kind of have their own kind of style and their own kind of slang and things like that. They kind of welcomed me, so I’m kind of assimilating to their culture a little bit.
With Jeff Maehl and D.J. Davis graduated, who’s stepping into a leadership role for the receivers?
L.T. (Lavasier Tuinei) has kind of stepped up into a leadership role, just with his play and off the field in meetings and things like that — talking to us, giving us words and wisdom and all those things. Also Josh (Huff), too, and Justin Hoffman. So the three of them are basically like the main leaders of our receiving corps.
Having a dad who’s a coach can never hurt a player. What tips did your dad give you that still stay with you today?
There are two things. One was a Bible verse that’s kind of his favorite verse and my favorite verse (Matthew 16:26), and it says, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” So just, no matter what you’re doing off the field, in football, whatever, if you lose your core values, what was the point of doing all that?
And just remember that football’s just a game. It’s fun. You want to work hard and be good, but you’ve got your family, you’ve got your faith, you’ve got schoolwork. So that just kind of puts things in perspective.