Mighty Duck Philyaw might have led Terps

THE BALTIMORE SUN

PASADENA, Calif. -- When Dino Philyaw was a high school senior in North Carolina, he never envisioned ending his college career in the Rose Bowl as Oregon's leading rusher.

Philyaw never figured on playing minor-league baseball in Florida and Idaho, running track and playing football at a California junior college, placing in the 100 meters at the Pacific-10 track and field championships or helping the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl since 1958 with some clutch running and receiving in October and November.

Coming out of Southern Wayne High in Dudley, N.C., Philyaw didn't want to do any of those things. His athletic aspirations were all about wearing the red, white and black of the University of Maryland.

"Yeah, this is pretty weird," Philyaw said earlier this week, after an Oregon practice against the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. "I signed with Maryland out of high school, and I was real disappointed when I couldn't play for them.

"Everything happens for a reason, and it happened that I didn't pass the SAT. It kept me from going to Maryland, but I guess in the end, it couldn't have worked out any better for me."

Actually, Philyaw nearly bought the Maryland sales pitch twice.

When Joe Krivak announced the Terps' letters of intent in February 1990, Philyaw's name was there, just below that of another running back prospect, Mark Mason. Philyaw chose the Terps over North Carolina and Wake Forest, but academic deficiencies precluded him from immediately playing Division I athletics.

After stints as an outfielder in the Cleveland Indians organization and at Taft (Calif.) Junior College, Philyaw was wooed two years ago by the Mark Duffner regime. He took another official visit to Maryland and considered Hawaii, Pitt and Wyoming before joining a middle-of-the-road Pac-10 program at Oregon.

Philyaw had only 33 carries for 120 yards last year, but this season he was voted Oregon's Most Improved Player. Without Philyaw, the Ducks wouldn't have a Pac-10 championship, a six-game winning streak or nine victories for the first time since 1948, when Norm Van Brocklin was the quarterback.

Junior Ricky Whittle is listed as the Oregon starter at tailback, but it is Philyaw, a 5-foot-11, 192-pound senior, who leads the Ducks in rushing, with 702 yards, and touchdowns, with 11.

Oregon was 2-2 and Whittle was back in Eugene with a fractured thumb and a hamstring injury when the Ducks began the Pac-10 campaign at the Los Angeles Coliseum against favored Southern California. Philyaw had 123 yards rushing and three catches for 61 yards in a 22-7 victory that served as Oregon's coming-out party.

"When we needed a spark, Dino stepped up big-time," Oregon coach Rich Brooks said. "He became a big-time college back in that game, and continued to play that way for the rest of the year. He's got great speed. He catches the ball well. He's been a major factor in many of our wins down the stretch."

Philyaw had a 100-yard day against California. Oregon clinched its Rose Bowl berth with a 17-13 victory at Oregon State, and the winning touchdown came on an 18-yard catch by Philyaw.

Despite his 1994 accomplishments, Philyaw's football education is limited.

"He has not reached his full potential yet," Brooks said. "I think the next level for him is intriguing, because I think there's a lot left that he can get better at going into Sunday football."

Now, Philyaw is more concerned with Monday afternoon football. In two days, he'll trade runs against Penn State's Ki-Jana Carter, who could be the first back taken in the NFL draft if he decided to leave Penn State after his junior season.

The competition, surroundings and events that led Philyaw here have left him shaking his head.

"It's starting to hit me that I'm going to be playing in front of 100,000 fans, on national television, in the biggest bowl game of all," Philyaw said. "It's nice to be able to show the people who doubted me that I'm not a loser. It makes me feel good that I never gave up my dream of playing big-time football."

PHILYAW IN 1994

3)Category .. .. .. Plays .. Yards .. TDs

Rushes . .. .. .. 177 .... 702 ..... 7

Receptions ... ... 24 .... 221 ..... 4

Returns ... .. .. . 2 ..... 20 ..... 0

All-purpose .. .. 203 .... 943 .... 11

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