FLIGHT TEST FOR TEVIN JEANNIS
When Tevin Jeannis puts on his uniform and stands on the sideline during Monday's Redbox Bowl, it'll be the completion of quite a whirlwind first season with the University of Oregon.
The 2018 Scappoose High graduate made the Ducks as a walk-on and not only participated in practices throughout the fall, but was named the scout team special teams player of the year by the UO coaches.
"It was pretty cool, and just earning that (award) was just recognition for all my hard work throughout the season," says Jeannis, a 6-2, 180-pound true freshman who also practiced at wide receiver. "I understand the game, the special teams game, and it looked like that was my spot to get on to the field."
Jeannis' practice performance also earned him some playing time against Oregon State in the Civil War game on Nov. 23 in Corvallis. He played on some punt returns — as a blocker on a gunner — and also on the last kickoff of the Ducks' 55-15 win.
The context here is that very few walk-on players ever see the field for the Ducks and Beavers or any Pac-12 team. So, it's a big deal to play in a game in a true freshman season as a walk-on. (And, Jeannis is still technically a redshirt player, because he'll play in less than four games to maintain his status).
"That was crazy," Jeannis says, of the Civil War experience. "Growing up in Oregon, and being able to say you played in the Civil War. Growing up just being a Ducks fan and always watching the game with my friends, and then going to school the next week and being really upset or really happy" with a UO loss or win.
"It definitely motivated me more to keep competing and earn playing time."
Another reward comes at noon Monday, when the Ducks (8-4) play Michigan State (7-5) in the Redbox Bowl at Santa Clara, California.
"That's going to be crazy, a crazy atmosphere," Jeannis says. "Being on the sidelines will be cool. Warming up and being on the field will be another thing."
Jeannis lives in Warren, and he grew up playing football, starting in the second grade. After a solid junior season at Scappoose, he was named a second-team all-state player as a senior and first-team all-Cowapa League. He had 39 receptions for 632 yards and six touchdowns. He also rushed for three TDs and picked off two passes on defense.
He also ran sprints in track and field, and ran on the Indians' 4x100-meter relay team that won the Class 4A championship in spring 2018 (along with Ben Cox, Connor McNabb and Tyler Holcomb).
With a goal to play college football, his parents and other people kept encouraging him to "just keep working, it's definitely possible, 'Don't say it's not possible because you're from a small school.'"
He had an offer to play for NCAA Division II Western Oregon and another preferred walk-on offer from Oregon State. He passed on Western Oregon because "the atmosphere wasn't what I was looking for in college" and at Oregon State "coaches didn't seem very interested or weren't engaging when I visited them." He also considered Portland State.
At Oregon, "they were really engaging and talking with me, showing me around, getting to know me," he says.
Jeannis was recruited by Matt Noyer, director of football operations. Jeannis had attended a summer 2017 camp and then sent film to Noyer during his senior season.
Michael Johnson, UO receivers coach, offered Jeannis the chance to be a preferred walk-on.
"At first, I didn't think I'd get a chance to be on the team. But, having an offer, I couldn't pass it up," Jeannis says.
"It's a very good, very positive culture. I feel like most of my teammates click with each other. No real cliques; everyone embraces each other."
Will Jeannis ever earn more playing time at Oregon? The Ducks had a rebuilt 2018 receiving corps led by Dillon Mitchell, Brenden Schooler and Johnny Johnson III, and the program recently signed some touted preps.
But, Jeannis does have a year of development on his resume. And, he continues to develop, physically, after entering Oregon at 169 pounds.
"They said to be able to get on the field I'd need to weigh 185. I now weigh 182," he says. "I need to gain more weight, get stronger, keep developing, get more physical."
He has maintained his speed. Jeannis says he has run a 4.56-second 40-yard dash, and he ranked 10th on the Ducks.
He watched as Mitchell became one of the Pac-12's best receivers with 69 receptions for 1,114 yards and nine touchdowns this year.
"Being able to see what he does and take notes on his technique, how he goes about running drills, and me being able to incorporate things has really helped," Jeannis says.
Then again, there have been many influences on him at Oregon. He feels welcome, like he belongs.
"There are multiple guys I talk to, and they give me advice and tips on what to do and the mind-set you need," Jeannis says. "It's just the culture of the team, very welcoming. If you're doing what you're supposed to do, you're busting your butt, people will respect you for that."