EUGENE — Oregon safety Avery Patterson remembers well the arduous time after his devastating knee injury last season at California.

He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament against the Bears, while playing in front of family and friends who had ventured from his hometown of Pittsburg, Calif. As trainers tended to him, as he realized the extent of the injury, as he prepared for the surgery and lengthy rehabilitation, Patterson said he went through the toughest period of his young life.

"Going through just the feeling that you can't physically do what you love to do," he says. "I had never had to sit out because of an injury. That hurt.

"And, especially with the loss the next week (to Stanford), that first three months that I was injured, it really took a toll on me mentally. But, I got over it."

Yes, he has, as Patterson returned to the field for some partial training during spring ball, and entered training camp fully healthy. He has been sharp in camp and seems destined to play significant time for the Ducks, if not start at free safety.

Patterson reflects on his time dealing with an injury. It's a different time for an athlete, one where his best friends, closest confidants and advisors arguably became trainers. He speaks with fondness about Travis Halseth and Kim Terrell and their boss, "Chief" Kevin Steil. Patterson says Halseth helped him the most, "really supported me, mentally."

"I've always told them, 'You have to be one of the best psychologists to do your job,' " Patterson says. "A lot of people get down on themselves in the recovery phase, because they feel like they'll never be what they once were.

"Especially on that first night I got hurt, probably the hardest time of my life, just going through that, seeing my family more upset than I was really hurt me. I wanted to get back on the field and make everyone else proud. That's why I play football. I like to make my teammates proud, the fans proud, community proud, city where I'm from proud, my family proud."

The ironic part was that Patterson took over the starting free safety position from John Boyett, whose UO career ended after the first game of his senior season, as he underwent knee surgeries. Patterson later had interceptions in three consecutive games, two going for touchdowns.

Then, after Patterson went down, his high school teammate, Erick Dargan, replaced him in the starting lineup. Patterson and Dargan return this season to a strong UO secondary, which also features rover Brian Jackson and cornerbacks Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Terrance Mitchell and Troy Hill.

Both the 5-10, 185-pound Patterson and 5-11, 205 junior Dargan will surely play, it's just a matter of who starts. Patterson says he wants to start.

"He's one of my best friends here," Patterson says, of Dargan. "I don't really say anything to him like, 'Oh, who's going to be the starter, or I'm going to be the starter.' I don't have that type of mentality where I want to go out there and show anybody up.

"I hope to instill in the coaches' heads that when I'm not on the field, it's 'Why don't we have Avery on the field?' I go out there and make plays."

The strong UO secondary still calls itself "D-Boyz," the nickname the foursome of Jairus Byrd, Walter Thurmond, T.J. Ward and Patrick Chung gave themselves back in 2008. All four have gone on to NFL careers, but not before being shelled at USC in 2008 among some mediocre performances.

Patterson, who signed with UO in February 2009, remembers the "D-Boyz," and the lesson that came from them: You gotta back up your words.

"They brought that upon themselves, calling themselves the best secondary in the nation," he says. "In this next generation, we're kind of doing the same thing. I don't know if that hurt them, but I felt they were better the year before they became the 'D-Boyz.'

"Hopefully we can live up to that (tradition). We don't have a nickname, we're still living on that legacy. We still call ourselves the 'D-Boyz.' We have a lot of competitors in our group, experience in our group. Hopefully we'll be as good as everybody says, and prove it every Saturday."

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