EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Johnathan Loyd has the basics of being a wide receiver down: He can catch and run, no problem.
It’s the mental part that’s hard.
After four years as a point guard on Oregon’s basketball team, Loyd is making the transition to receiver for the Ducks, taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows a player a fifth year of eligibility — in a different sport.
Loyd is doing this partly for fun, and partly because he’s the consummate competitor. He’s already gotten his degree in applied economics and is working on another.
“I’d been curious to see if I could play at this level,” he said. “I love the University of Oregon, and I love to see the Ducks win. So if I can’t do it in basketball anymore, I wanted to try another sport, to see if I could contribute.”
Loyd unexpectedly made the jump to football the second week of spring practice. While he played back in high school in Las Vegas, his move was seen as something of a stunt and most figured he wouldn’t last.
But the 5-foot-8 guard won many of the naysayers over when he donned pads for the annual Spring Game and had a catch for four yards and saw time as a punt returner on special teams.
“The guy had a great attitude in the spring — but you could tell he hadn’t played football for five years,” coach Mark Helfrich said. “It’s not like he’s showing up and playing intramural flag football. He’s playing elite-level Division I football. There’s rust. There’s uncertainty.”
Loyd admits it was a weird adjustment.
“When I first started in the spring I was still in basketball mode. I came off the line and wasn’t going as hard as I could, trying to find my way. That kind of hurt me, I think,” he said. “But I’m out of that now.”
Loyd thinks he has a place on the offense and on special teams for the Ducks, who went 11-2 last season and have been picked to finish atop the Pac-12 North and win the league championship game.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself,” he said. “I don’t know how I’ll be used, I’m just trying to be the best I can be and go as hard as I can.”
Loyd was the starting point guard for the Ducks basketball team that went 24-10 and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. Oregon’s season ended with a third-round tournament loss to Wisconsin.
Loyd averaged seven points and 4.7 assists per game his senior year. The first player recruited by coach Dana Altman, he played in a school-record 144 career games and 97 Oregon wins.
Football is a whole different mindset.
“I’ve got nothing but respect for these guys,” he said. “A lot of people can say this or that when they’re sitting in the stands, but they have no idea what it’s really like.”
Loyd’s good friend Keanon Lowe is expected to be Oregon’s top receiver now that Josh Huff has moved on. The Ducks were hit this spring with the loss of Bralon Addison, the top returner with 61 catches for 890 yards and seven touchdowns, because of a torn ACL. But Addison is hoping to return later this season.
Another receiver in the mix is speedy redshirt freshman Devon Allen. After recovering from injuries he sustained during fall camp last year, Allen joined the Ducks track team and won the 110-meter hurdles title at the NCAA track and field championships in 13.16, a meet record and the second-best collegiate time ever.
Others competing for playing time include B.J. Kelley, Zach Schuller, Chance Allen and Dwayne Stanford.
So far, Helfrich likes what he’s seeing from Loyd.
“Great, positive attitude out there,” Helfrich said. “He’s a guy you can see everybody likes to be around and work with.”
Loyd laughed at the suggestion that in addition to football he could also still run track — following the lead of some of the other Ducks, including Allen.
“That’s a whole different level of speed,” he said.
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