My Last Spring Game

UO senior Chelsea Fullmer reminisces about her last time in Autzen Stadium as a student.

Halloween 2009, the Ducks take down the No. 4 USC Trojans 47-20. Chelsea in Section 12 as a senior in high school.

After growing up in Section 12 and spending the last four years in the rowdiest of student sections, this year’s spring game was met with a whole new perspective. Walking over the river and through the woods for the last time as a UO student, I decided to sit opposite the sections I’ve become so attached to, and take in the place I’ve deemed my “third” home (behind my parents’ house and our family home in Cannon Beach) from a completely new angle.

A Duck from the very beginning.
Chelsea age six.

Coming from the Portland area and a dynamic family of Ducks, spending my autumn Saturdays in Autzen Stadium became part of my routine. After early morning soccer games, my family and I would rush down I-5 to catch the 12:30 p.m. kickoff that was standard for all home games (before prime TV airtime was relevant for the top-notch program). I remember tailgating with friends and family, bringing in “Duck lips” before they were banned, and even the very first time I saw the Ducks lose in Autzen Stadium when I was eight years old.

As a student, I was granted the chance to experience games like I never had before. Although I was sad to leave my family in Section 12, the student section offered a once-in-a-lifetime experience with each game. While standing for four hours can definitely be taxing on the body, the adrenalin from each snap—each touchdown—and having the Duck crowd-surfing over you made time pass seamlessly. The Civil War game this past season was my last home game as a student, with the impending date of graduation approaching. In one of the most thrilling and emotionally exhausting endings, beating the Beavers by only one point, I was suddenly saddened to end my tenure in the student section.

However, thanks to the football deities that created spring football, I was able to return to Autzen Stadium one more time before entering the real world. The spring game is a much more relaxing version of a regular season game: national championships aren’t on the line, there’s no such thing as a bad play, and my hair doesn’t gray with anxiety. Each year, I’ve attended the spring game and been amazed at the support that Duck fans bring out during the off season;  not only for the UO but also by donating hundreds of pounds of food to Food for Lane County, and supporting the men and women who have and are serving our country. I’ve also been amazed at the hidden talent the Ducks display during this scrimmage.

Chelsea and her roommate, Madison, in the
student section as seniors.

Two years ago, my sophomore year as a student, my parents drove down to join me for the spring game. My mom and dad, Tom and Maureen Fullmer, both graduated from the UO in 1979 and have been season ticket holders for 30 years. With a question mark as to who our quarterback would be after Darron Thomas made the surprising decision to enter the NFL draft after the Ducks’ near perfect season, we were curious to see who would fill the void in the lightening-fast offense that catapulted the Ducks onto the national stage. I distinctly remember watching this young kid from Hawaii making huge plays at quarterback and thinking, “Wow, who is this guy?” My dad and I decided after the game that he should get the starting position. Clearly, Chip Kelly thought the same thing.

This year, I returned to Autzen Stadium with my roommate and friend who was my next door neighbor in Carson Hall four years ago. We decided to sit in Section 34, directly across our usual standing spot to check out the Ducks we’d come to love. Not only was there the luxury of sitting down, but also the time to reminiscence about the good and devastating times spent in Autzen.  I got to see Mariota throw a 45-yard touchdown pass, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner battle for the starting running back position, and basketball player Johnathan Loyd make his football debut after four years on the court. I once again got to honor the troops, soldiers, and veterans of our country while watching the ceremonial folding of the flag and the exchange of jerseys from players to soldiers. And I once again got to sing the fight song (that I learned in kindergarten) and yell “Go Ducks” in the best college football stadium in the nation.