Breast cancer awareness hits home for Oregon coaches and players like Josh Huff

The Oregon helmets were hard to miss as the players gathered for pre-game pump-ups. The No. 2 Oregon Ducks play the Washington State Cougars at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. on Oct. 19, 2013. (Michael Arellano/Emerald)

The Oregon helmets were hard to miss as the players gathered for pre-game pump-ups. The No. 2 Oregon Ducks play the Washington State Cougars at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. on Oct. 19, 2013. (Michael Arellano/Emerald)

Posted by Victor Flores on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 1:09 am.

Oregon’s uniforms are highly publicized almost every game, but there was a different buzz surrounding them this week. The Oregon players wore pink helmets, gloves, socks, cleats and arm bands in Saturday’s home game against Washington State, while the coaches wore fully pink shirts. This was all done to support breast cancer awareness, and the effort will help raise money for cancer research.

But the Ducks weren’t just doing this to show support for strangers affected by the deadly disease. Many players and coaches have personally been affected by it.

“We’ve all been affected by cancer in some way, shape or form, directly or indirectly,” head coach Mark Helfrich said. “It’s a fight even the media, players and coaches can agree on.”

Breast cancer has especially made an impact on the life of Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff.

“I lost a godmother behind breast cancer and my girlfriend, Annie, had breast cancer and she beat it,” Huff said, “so it meant a lot for me to finally wear pink and support breast cancer awareness.”

Huff said his girlfriend beat the disease three years ago, so time has helped calm the emotions he felt about her battle. But Huff said the emotions are still there, especially the happiness he felt when Annie finally beat the cancer.

“It meant a lot but it’s been a while,” Huff said about Annie winning the battle. “It still meant a lot for me to finally put on pink.”

Huff uttered the phrase “finally put on pink” several times after the game. He said wearing that color is something he, his teammates and the coaching staff have wanted to do for years, so finally getting to wear all of that pink was huge for him.

“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while,” Huff said. “There are still women fighting breast cancer and there are still women dying from breast cancer, so anytime you’ve got a team that can support breast cancer awareness, it means a lot. Not only to ourselves but to people that are fighting it.”

Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu said it was huge for people who watch football but don’t know that much about breast cancer. He said that getting people to become more aware about the struggles people like Huff, and the women in his life directly affected by cancer, have gone through is great. The Ducks can have an impact for something important that isn’t at all related to what they do on the field.

“For people that just watch sports, they’re going to figure out why we did that,” Ekpre-Olomu said. “Just getting people to be aware of breast cancer is a really big thing because getting more people aware is going to really help figure out something that will help people who are less fortunate.”