On The ’39 Oregon Ducks

ucla-39-ore-smith-donovan-graybeal-emmons
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This copyrighted photograph from the University of Oregon Libraries – Special Collections and University Archives taken at Howe Field in the fall of 1939 features four senior players — (left to right) halfback BOB SMITH, quarterback DENNIS DONOVAN, halfback JAY GRAYBEAL and fullback FRANK EMMONS — who were among the half dozen Oregon Ducks that were chosen by the participating professional clubs at the 1940 National Football League Draft.
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The OREGON DUCKS had already earned a very credible 7-7 draw with the defending Rose Bowl champion Trojans of Southern Cal in Los Angeles to open their 1939 NCAA season and had built upon that result by dispatching the Stanford Indians 10-0 a week later in Portland. Head coach TEX OLIVER’s troops had also already completed the proverbial “hat trick” versus the Sunshine State’s so-called Big Three after blanking the California Golden Bears 6-0 on the road in Berkeley and, immediately thereafter, suddenly rising to a most respectable 11th place in the weekly collegiate football rankings as issued by The Associated Press. But then, after breaking a scoreless tie midway through the third quarter, the Ducks were torpedoed 12-7 on their own home ground in Eugene by a “hard-driving and deceptively lateraling” Gonzaga College squad riding the passing arm of sophomore left halfback TONY CANADEO, the future Green Bay Packers star.

Having abruptly vanished from the AP’s weekly collegiate rankings just as swiftly as initially appearing, the Oregon Ducks were still unbeaten in Pacific Coast Conference play and clearly at their campaign’s crossroads when arriving at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a second time in a month as October of 1939 approached its conclusion.

There was talent on the Oregon roster that fall as evidenced by the fact that no fewer than ten Ducks would be formally drafted by National Football League clubs within two years of the P.C.C. game with the host UCLA Bruins at the venerable LA Memorial Coliseum in late October of 1939. To put things in a relative perspective, only two of the opposing UCLA players were to be selected by NFL teams within that same time span. Of course, the mighty USC Trojans would have nine players chosen in just the 1940 NFL Draft alone but that would be another matter.

(Note – the Bruins’ total of NFL Draft picks for the years 1940 and 1941 SHOULD have been at least twice as large – nevertheless, the overall point here with respect to the quality of the Oregon Ducks team remains the same).

1940 National Football League Draft – Oregon Ducks
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FB – Frank EMMONS ……….. Philadelphia Eagles ……… 32nd overall
RE – Vic REGINATO ………… Chicago Cardinals ……….. 41st overall
HB – Bob SMITH ……………… New York Giants ……….. 130th overall
QB – Dennis DONOVAN ……. Brooklyn Dodgers …….. 144th overall
HB – Jay GRAYBEAL ……….. Washington Redskins … 168th overall
RG – Cecil WARDEN ………… New York Giants ……….. 180th overall

1941 National Football League Draft – Oregon Ducks
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QB – Chet HALISKA …………… Cleveland Rams ………….. 34th overall
LT – Jim STUART ……………… Washington Redskins …. 40th overall
FB – Marshall STENTROM …. Philadelphia Eagles …….. 91st overall
HB – Len ISBERG ……………….. Detroit Lions ……………. 175th overall

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