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Lowe continues winning ways at UO

by: COURTESY PHOTO: ERIC EVANS UNIVERSITY OF OREGON ATHLETICS - University of Oregon wide receiver Keanon Lowe had one of his best games against USC, catching two passes for 40 yards.

Talent alone wasn’t going to cut it.

In 2010, when Keanon Lowe set foot on the University of Oregon practice field as a highly-coveted recruit out of Jesuit High ready to set the Pac-12 world on fire as a fleet, sticky-handed wide receiver, he quickly realized there were players just as good if not better lining the Ducks’ stacked pass catching core.

To attain his intent of slipping on those voguish green and yellow uniforms and running out of the Autzen Stadium tunnel as a bona fide contributor to a championship-quality program, Lowe figured out there was only one way on the field: painstaking, tireless, hard work.

So, the former Crusader accepted a redshirt his freshman season and brought his lunch pail and hard hat every day to practice, displaying a tireless drive and an industrious will to improve that made him legendary at Jesuit. There were wide receivers who were bigger, taller and faster than the 5-foot-9 pass catcher, so he outworked them. Lowe ran extra routes after practice, even if it was simply breaking down his steps on an empty parcel by himself. He studied film of opposing defensive backs and built extra layers of muscle to his rangy frame in the weight room to get out of jams at the line of scrimmage.

It’s Lowe’s work ethic, which he attributes to his Jesuit tenure, that turned him from a scout team player in 2010 to a regular special teams performer as a redshirt freshman.

Starting postby: COURTESY PHOTO: ERIC EVANS UNIVERSITY OF OREGON ATHLETICS - University of Oregon wide receiver Keanon Lowe grabbed a starting job last year as sophomore thanks to a tireless work ethic.

At Jesuit, Lowe said he learned grinding can beat out physical gifts and that held especially true last year. After a rigorous offseason and stellar fall camp, Lowe earned a starting spot at wide receiver, beating out four raved about pass catchers for the position while also holding down roles on all three special teams units.

“Taking it back to my Jesuit days, I was a real confident player, and I just wanted to keep it going here at Oregon,” said Lowe. “The work ethic is all about having good practice habits and how you prepare yourself throughout life. I think that’s what Jesuit instilled in me, and I tried to carry that out through my college experience.”

He caught 22 balls for 244 yards and three touchdowns last year, including strong showings against Stanford (five catches, 51 yards and a score) and USC (two catches for 40 yards and two tackles on special team). Lowe entrenched himself as one of the Ducks’ most consistent performers, a player who would leave no stone unturned in preparation or effort.

“The only reason I’ve been playing and been able to earn a starting spot is because I put everything into it,” said Lowe. “I realize work ethic is key and that’s definitely the reason I’ve been able to have some success. That’s what I’m trying to fall back on this fall camp and in the future.”

Set the standard

Crusader head coach Ken Potter said Lowe is one of the top two or three players he’s ever coached in his 27 years at Jesuit. Lowe was the first one at practice, ran every sprint like it was his last and worked every route like a JV player trying to make the varsity squad, Potter recalled.

“Being talented, he didn’t take any time off. He just kept working to get better,” said Potter. “He was a great role model, a great example for our younger kids to look at. Everything he did was to the best of his ability, and he maximized what he had in athletic talent.

“He was a phenomenal, phenomenal competitor on both sides of the ball,” continued Potter. “He exemplifies what a winner is all about. Every practice he was the best he could be. He worked so hard. He was humble and a guy who helped others on the field.”

Coming out of Jesuit, Lowe was actually the 6A 2009 Defensive Player of the Year at safety but said he liked the offensive side of the ball better at the collegiate level. Lowe said there were schools who recruited him to play defense exclusively and be a ballhawk on the backend. Yet, as a wideout who caught 42 balls as a Crusader senior, Lowe saw himself following in the footsteps of former all-Pac 10 Ducks Keenan Howry and Samie Parker.

“I know the college coaches told me it’d be harder because I was only 5’9” and all that, but I didn’t really listen to that,” said Lowe. “I knew I could do it, and I just wanted to go out there and play receiver.”

A new game

Lowe’s redshirt season allowed him to sit back and learn the tricks of the trade from seasoned vets like Jeff Maehl, Lavasier Tuinei and Drew Davis. Lowe said college football is a whole new game from high school, and it took a changed mental approach to adapt and mature as a player.

In a sense, Lowe went from the top of the food chain as an all-stater on both sides of the ball at Jesuit, to the bottom of the Ducks’ pecking order. He admitted he needed the extra year of maturation both physically and mentally. Promptly, Lowe caught up to the rest of the pack as every day in practice he faced off against the 2011 defense that came a field goal away from beating Auburn in the National Championship Game. Lowe experienced his fair share of battles with Cliff Harris, UO’s former All-American cornerback along with Eddie Pleasant and Thomas Jackson.

“Cliff was a great competitor and a great teammate,” said Lowe. “He always helped push me, and I think that’s definitely a reason I got better as a young guy. It wasn’t just him, though, it was all the vets, like (linebacker) Casey Matthews, who were great with me.”

In his two years as a Duck, the redshirt junior has played key roles in the UO’s Fiesta Bowl-winning squad last season and the 2012 Rose Bowl championships.

“It felt great to have my family watch me and be a starter out there for the Oregon Ducks,” said Lowe. “I put a lot of work into it, and they were all proud of me. Every day I’m just loving it, and I’m truly living out a childhood dream.”

Day-by-day

He’s had three years to immerse himself in the Ducks’ spread offensive attack and two years of game experience to fall back as the UO goes for the holy grail this fall — the 2014 National Championship. True to his former head coach Chip Kelly’s life motto, Lowe said UO wants to take this season day-by-day.

“We have goals and all that, but none of those goals can be accomplished if you don’t prepare and do the things day-in and day-out that you need to, to be a great team,” said Lowe. “Individually, if I don’t do the things I need to be doing, I won’t become a great player. We have a lot of guys on this team that want to be great, and I think that’s unique. We know the process of what it takes to be a great team, and that’s preparing ourselves through practice.”

This year, Lowe wants to lend a helping hand as much as possible to a team that’s been ranked in the nation’s top three in virtually every preseason poll. On special teams, he wants to start on kickoff, kickoff return and punt return while still starting at wide receiver. On Monday Lowe was once again named a starter opposite of senior Josh Huff.

“Now, I have a whole year under my belt as a starter, and I’m just trying to get better,” said Lowe. “I want to be that much better than last year. I’m just excited to get back out there again.

“It feels like we’ve been preparing for so long in the offseason, and now it’s finally football time again.”

In an offense where wide receivers don’t see the field unless they block in the run game, Lowe said he’s game to sacrifice personal stats in the name of clearing lanes on the perimeter for guys like DeAnthony Thomas and Thomas Tyner to skate through.

“I want to help open holes, especially for the running backs, and then when my number’s called, catch the ball and hopefully make some plays,” said Lowe. by: COURTESY PHOTO: ERIC EVANS UNIVERSITY OF OREGON ATHLETICS - Lowe wants to start on all three of the Ducks special teams units and said he takes pride in doing the dirty work.

Lowe said he takes particular pride in manning each of the Ducks’ special teams coverages. His background as a hard-hitting safety is particularly convenient when he’s sprinting downfield looking for either an adversary to rock or a kickoff returner to knock out.

“Being a smaller guy, you definitely have to have the right mindset to be out there and contribute, especially on that kickoff team,” said Lowe. “Things are crazy out there, and usually the guys blocking you are a foot taller than me and sometimes 100 pounds heavier, but you just can’t ever back down from anybody and never be afraid.

“It’s a huge part of the game,” continued Lowe. “The average fan doesn’t realize how important that part of the game is, but we have a lot of guys who realize that and that could be the difference between a win and a loss.”

Push each other

Under the vigilant eye of head strength coach Jim Radcliffe, Lowe and the Ducks went through an intense offseason conditioning and workout regiment designed to simulate the speed of an actual contest. Lowe said the Ducks as a whole have urged each other to stick in the weight room and get an extra set in, to run more routes and stay late after practice.

“A lot of guys have pushed me through the summer, and I think that’s what really helps,” said Lowe. “That’s what makes a team great is when you’re able to push each other, and that’s what we’ve definitely done.”

The qualities starting to define this year’s University of Oregon football team bring to mind a slew of golden parallels to the 2009 Jesuit squad that Lowe played a huge in role in helping reach the 6A state championship.

Guys like Nick Alfieri, Taylor Martinek, Jordan Lewis and Dominique Forrest made up Lowe’s inner circle of fox hole teammates who pushed each other during those memorable Beaverton summers and helped the Crusaders nearly upend Sheldon.

“I’m so proud of the kind of person he is,” said Potter. “He’s earned everything he’s gotten. He’s not huge in physical status, but his heart is as big as anybody’s on the field. He plays harder than anybody, he’s just a great young man.”



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