RetroDuck - Bob Berry
In 1963 Indiana came to Oregon to play the Ducks at Portland’s Multnomah Stadium. The Hoosiers were led by
All-American fullback Tom Nowatske who put his team ahead 22 to 21 with only a minute to play. It was raining and the field was muddy, but Berry brought the Ducks back. Mel Renfro made
a sensational grab of a tipped
pass to keep the drive alive near midfield. With 18 seconds to play Oregon was on the Indiana 30 yard line. Berry, a junior, rolled right, kept his footing in the
mud, and threw a strike to H.D. Murphy, the ball just clearing the Hoosier defender. Former radio announcer, Wendy Ray said the game was like a “symphony with the grand crescendo at the end.”
After the 1964 season Berry not only was the MVP of the
college all-star Hula Bowl, he was also named first team quarterback on the prestigious Kodak All-American football team. Also on the team were collegiate and pro legends, Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers. Bob said that the whole team was “wined and dined” throughout Washington D.C.
and New York and it culminated with a live primetime television appearance on CBS’ Ed Sullivan show. Bob chuckled as he related that singer Ella Fitzgerald asked him for his autograph. Butkus was Bob’s roommate during the week and he described Butkus as a “wild man”. Berry would meet Butkus for many years on the playing field as Bob played for 9 years in the NFL. He was a teammate
of Fran Tarkenton at Minnesota but spent most of
his playing days in Atlanta.
In 1972 he finished in a 3-way
tie with Norm Snead and Fran Tarkenton for passing leadership of the NFC. Bob redshirted
his first year at Oregon and the NFL had a policy that a redshirt could be drafted after his junior year. Bob was selected by Philadelphia after his junior
year but then was traded to Minnesota in the 1965 draft.
Berry came to Oregon from
a football family in San Jose
where his father was a longtime high school football coach. His younger brother, Ken, was also
a quarterback and played for San Jose State. Bob’s dad had heard great things about Len Casanova, not only as a coach but as a
person, and advised Bob to check out Oregon. Bob decided to become a Duck and entered the
U of O in 1960 with Mel Renfro, Larry Hill and Lu Bain (see “Firehouse Four” photo
to right). Concerning Cas, Bob says: “Casanova is an unbelievable kind of guy, they broke the mold after they made him, he’s a special,
special person.” Bob remembers one game though where Cas got
a little out of character. In ‘64
the Ducks were trailing Indiana
at halftime in Bloomington in
a game they were favored to win. Cas exploded at halftime, the
only time Berry said that ever happened. “He ranted and raved the whole half, used some words I’d never heard him say before,
he got everyone’s attention, and he got mine.” The charged up Ducks routed the Hoosiers in the second half.
After the NFL Bob entered the real estate business and
lived in Santa Cruz, California
for a number of years. He then moved to St. Thomas in the
Virgin Islands where he ran a charter boat business until he got
“hurricaned-out”. Bob now lives in Gardnerville, Nevada near Las Vegas with his wife Laurie and
son Michael. Bob still follows the Ducks and attends a game when he can. Berry says that he still considers his college years in Eugene as probably “the best years of my life.” Illustrative of the closeness
of the team of the early ‘60s is the fact that every year a large group
of 30 or more teammates meet at Sunriver, Oregon. Even Len Casanova, who is now 96 years old, makes sure that he never misses one of these annual reunions.
As we watch Oregon football this season and watch a potential All-American who comes from
a football family, who is an intense emotional leader who has gained the absolute confidence of his teammates, one who can pass on the run, drop back, run the option and engineer nail biting comebacks, we need to appreciate what we are witnessing. One like him has been here before, but they don’t come around too often!
You can see films of Berry’s games and many more great moments in Duck football in the video
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