Dan Fouts ’77

UO football legend on family, philanthropy, and personal tragedy

Dan Fouts ’77 and late son Dominic Fouts take in a Yankees game. (Photo: Suzanne Krueger)

Dan Fouts ’77 has had a career many people would willingly trade theirs for in a heartbeat. Unequivocally. No questions asked.

As a Duck, the quarterback threw for 5,995 yards and 37 touchdowns, and by the time he received his degree in political science in 1977—he returned to the UO four years after turning professional to complete his degree—he was the owner of 19 UO records. During his first year as a starter he engineered one of the greatest comebacks in college football history, rallying the Ducks from 40-21 down in the fourth quarter to a 41-40 win at No. 15 UCLA.

Dan Fouts set 19 records at the UO before
going on to a Hall of Fame career with the San
Diego Chargers. (Photo: UO Archives)

After being drafted by the San Diego Chargers he led them to the AFC title game twice and was elected to six Pro Bowls, and retired as one of only four players to ever surpass the 40,000-yards passing mark. Following his retirement, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, had his number retired by the Chargers, and was named the “Greatest Charger of All Time” by fans.

With his cleats freshly hung up he entered the broadcast booth and quickly rose through the ranks, and after a period spent calling the NFL’s prominent Monday Night Football games, partnered with Ian Eagle to be the number two NFL broadcasting team at CBS, behind the pairing of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.

Any way you look at it Fouts is a legend, one of the greatest athletes to ever represent the University of Oregon in any sport.

Yet he would likely give it all up to spend just one more day with his son.

Dominic Fouts was born in 1978 and was named after Dominic LaRusso, a former professor of Dan’s at the UO and someone the elder Fouts considered a friend and a mentor. A natural athlete like his father, Dominic—who also went by numerous nicknames, including Nick, Dom, and Dom Diddy—represented Sisters High School in three sports, and spent much of his spare time surfing and snowboarding.  After earning his master’s degree, Dominic became a science teacher and camp counselor in Seattle. While the Pro Football Hall of Fame was not in his future, he was a teacher, a friend, and a mentor, just like the man for whom he was named.

Then, on July 4 2009, while the rest of America was celebrating Independence Day, Dominic Fouts was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer.

He fought the disease as best he could, riding his skateboard to chemotherapy treatments while continuing to teach, surf, and snowboard. In 2012 however, shortly after turning 34, Dominic passed away.

“They’re together somewhere,” Fouts said of his son and former professor, who himself passed in 2001.

The Fouts family was devastated by Dominic’s death, but rallied together to do something in his memory. They established the Dominic Fouts Memorial Cancer Fund, which is based in California and is directed by Fouts’ daughter Suzanne Krueger, with guidance from Dan.

“It’s a family deal,” said Fouts.

“I’d been in graduate school and had my final on the day of Nick’s memorial,” said Krueger, Dominic’s younger sister. “We wanted to do something to keep his memory alive. I felt called to do this, so I took the reins. I invited five of Nick’s friends to be board members and I’m the executive director.”

The DFMCF supports the Knight Cancer Institute and the Providence Cancer Center, and stages an annual fundraiser, which last year raised more than $16,000 for the Knight Cancer Institute and the Providence Cancer Center. Next year, the DFMCF will host the inaugural Dom Diddy Classic, a golf tournament at the Tokatee Golf Club in the McKenzie River Valley that will also include a silent auction of donated items.

That Dominic's family and friends would join together to establish a charity in his memory while also helping others is of little surprise. Despite being geographically widespread on the West Coast—Suzanne lives in San Diego, daughter Shannon Fouts plays volleyball for Cal Poly, son Ryan Burbank works in the Bay Area, Dominic had been teaching in Seattle, and Dan and wife Jeri live in Sisters—the family is a close one.

(Photo: Jeffrey R.Staab/CBS)

In fact Dan, who still has his trademark beard, though the robust brown has given way to grey, is following in his father’s footsteps each time he enters a broadcast booth on a Sunday afternoon. The son of Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Fouts, Dan Fouts grew up going to work with his father, who called San Francisco 49ers games at Kezar Stadium.

“At a young age, I would keep stats for dad in the broadcast booth,” Fouts said. “I admired him and his talent, and I wanted to do the same thing when I retired. Back in those days, players stayed with the same team for their whole career. My family had Y.A. Tittle over for dinner. You were exposed to these great players.”

Throughout his steady rise as a broadcaster, one constant has been input from Bob, whom Dan still aspires to be like.

“He still watches every game I broadcast,” he said. “He has praise and criticism, with good intentions to make me better. He’s been invaluable throughout my life. I’m lucky to be in the same profession as my dad, and to have his guidance is just awesome.”

Bob leaves no detail out, too, as Suzanne adds that Bob’s guidance even extends to Dan’s grooming habits.

“They’ve always had a close relationship,” said Krueger. “Grandpa watches every broadcast that dad does, and even provides feedback on his haircut. He offers fatherly advice—that doesn’t go away. I couldn’t be more proud of grandpa.”

Being a broadcaster offers more downtime than being a player, downtime Fouts spends in Sisters playing golf or watching game film. But every Friday during the season he flies to a different location—2014 has already seen him travel to Pittsburgh, Minnesota, New York (twice), London, Dallas, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Miami, Detroit, St. Louis, Houston, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Boston (also twice)—where he spends his Saturdays meeting with coaches and players and going over storylines, then calling the game on a Sunday before returning home to Oregon.

And Oregon, to Fouts, is home.

“Oregon is a wonderful place to live,” said Fouts. “My wife and I are able to do the things we want to do.”

While Fouts spends his spare time playing golf and advising the Dominic Fouts Memorial Cancer Fund, Jeri has her own philanthropic efforts to manage, as she runs the Starry Nights concert series to raise money for the Sisters School District. Previous Starry Nights headliners have included Michael McDonald, Deana Carter, Lee Ann Womack, Christopher Cross, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Kenny Loggins, Lyle Lovett, and Keb' Mo', who have all donated their time to help Starry Nights raise more than $1 million dollars to fund multiple projects in the school district.

When Dan Fouts left San Francisco to move to Eugene, he fell for Oregon instantly. Despite a career that continues to take him around the globe, and one that has seen him permanently enshrined in Canton, Ohio, he says he “never really left Oregon.”

“I fell in love with the school, the state, and the people,” Fouts said. “I made great relationships, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”

Except, maybe, for one thing.

For information about the Dominic Fouts Memorial Cancer Fund, including the Dom Diddy Classic, click here.

For information about Starry Nights, click here.