C.J. Snusz was frustrated with football. C.J., an eight-year-old Florida Gators fan from Buffalo, New York, had just watched Miami upset the Gators 21-16 and decided he was finished with the sport.
“He told me he hated football,” Chris Snusz, his father, recalled.
Chris urged his son to give football one more chance. The next scheduled game was Oregon against the Virginia Cavaliers and Chris promised his son an explosive showing from the Ducks. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota delivered on the fifth play from scrimmage. Mariota took a quarterback draw up the middle 71-yards for a touchdown. Oregon went on to blow out the Cavaliers 59-10.
After the game, C.J. asked his dad, a part-time artist, to draw a picture of his new favorite player for his room. Once the drawing was finished, Chris decided to put it on Twitter, hoping that Mariota would see it. Oregon linebacker Derrick Malone was first to contact Chris about the drawing, asking if he could get one as well in the process.
“It kind of just snowballed from there,” Chris said.
Since then, Chris has completed drawings for countless Oregon football players.
Chris, a former 11-year minor league baseball player, understands the importance of serendipitous gifts while going through the daily grind of competing in sports.
“The athletes make a ton of money for the schools and these kids have to have something. They give their hearts and everything for the program they are at,” Chris said. “It’s kind of like a surprise factor.”
Oregon running back Byron Marshall received the same surprise factor when he checked his Twitter notifications one day and saw the beginnings of a drawing that Chris had started.
“I was just checking my notifications and it popped up,” Marshall said. “He’s been working on it for a couple weeks. He just kept sending it to me progression by progression. I thought it was really cool because I never asked for it.”
Since the trend of drawing Oregon players started, C.J. has become a certified Ducks fan. He’s the person that decides what players his dad will draw next. The process has become a bonding experience for the father and son. C.J. helps his dad with the drawing and sends a fan letter to every player.
Wide receiver B.J. Kelley received his drawing from Chris along with a lightning yellow No. 8 Oregon jersey. With C.J.’s birthday approaching, Chris thought it would be a great idea to see if the players would sign the jersey. On his birthday, C.J. received a surprise of his own with a jersey signed by numerous Oregon players.
“Seeing the way the players respond is C.J.’s biggest thrill.”
To this day Kelley keeps the drawing in his room. Gazing at the work of art is astonishing for Kelley.
“Man, it’s amazing to look at every day when I see it,” Kelley said. “I can’t believe he drew it.”
“I never expected to get something like that. It was a great gift and it’s nice to see someone who has natural talent display that.”
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @JoeJHoyt