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This guy is nuts

Beaverton's Tom Finneran puts game face on as Duck Nut


Photo Credit: COURTESY OF TOM FINNERAN - Tom Finneran of Beaverton is the wild and crazy superfan Duck Nut.Beaverton’s Tom Finneran is officially nuts about the Ducks.

He should be. Finneran is the wildly painted superfan known as Duck Nut.

Finneran, 60, can be found at every football home game in Autzen Stadium’s Section 11, face painted green and yellow, decked out in an old U.S. Army helmet, a shiny silver belt buckle decorated with the winged “O,” and green and gold camouflaged shirt and pants.

His helmet is equipped with LED lights that shine during night games, giving his painted face a Duck fanly glow.

And, yes, he’s really nuts, but in a nice way.

“What Duck Nut is all about is the people’s game-day experience,” Finneran said this week, fresh off a big 39-point UO victory in Pasadena over defending NCAA champs Florida State. “At the Rose Bowl, I had thousands of people who came up to me asking for photographs. That’s what Duck Nut is all about. I’m a huge representative of the University of Oregon. I believe in being a good representative for the university.”

Not bad for a guy who sells wine by day for Laurel Ridge Winery in Carlton (as the winery’s marketing director), and didn’t even attend the University of Oregon. Indeed, his “Duck Nut” character has no official connection to the university either, but has been on the board of the Oregon Club of Portland for nine years.

“I’m just a crazy fan who loves the Ducks and the game,” Finneran said.

Lifelong commitment

Finneran grew up in Oregon City, cheering for the Ducks as a kid. He’s held season tickets to Autzen Stadium for 30 years. After living on the Big Island of Hawaii for a few years, Finneran settled in the Bethany area.

Duck Nut was born after Oregon’s 1997-2001 23-game home winning streak was snapped by a 49-42 loss to Stanford. For years before that loss, Finneran cheered on the Ducks at Autzen dressed in wacky clothes and a large fright wig. When the Ducks lost to Stanford, Finneran sulked his way to a friend’s house near Eugene and tossed the clothes and the wig into a fire.

“I burned them all up,” Finneran said.Photo Credit: COURTESY OF TOM FINNERAN - Tom Finneran of Beaverton is the wild and crazy superfan Duck Nut.

On the following Monday, Duck Nut rose from the ashes.

“He just slowly kept coming to life,” Finneran said.

First, it was the green and yellow camo clothing. Then the face paint. Then the tattoos on both biceps (a lifelong commitment to the Ducks, he said). Then the belt buckle. Then the helmet. Then the wild and crazy demeanor. Then the TV spots on ESPN Game Day and The Ellen Show. Then the commercials for Hyundai and AT&T.

“I spend thousands to do all this,” he said. “I’m doing this all on my own. But it’s worth it.”

Becoming Duck Nut takes hours of work. The green and yellow face paint takes at least two hours to apply, Finneran said. He uses theatrical paint and black mascara to outline the design and then paints inside the lines.

“It takes about five minutes to take it all off,” he said. “But for two or three days after that I still have makeup in my eyes and ears.”

The WWII helmet was a gift from a friend who sat near Finneran at Autzen Stadium. It was painted by Continental Athletic Supply of Gridley, Calif., where many NCAA teams have their helmets painted.

‘I just enjoy it’

The days leading up to this year’s Rose Bowl were a crazy parade of events and fan photos, Finneran said. He must have posed for several thousand snapshots and cheered with hundreds of fans.

“I usually just wander around and people come up to me,” Finneran said. “I just enjoy it.

“When you look at the kids, they just take my heart and hand it back to me.”

Finneran is headed to Texas on Friday for Monday’s national championship game at AT&T Stadium at Arlington, Texas, with a full lineup of events and television appearances on tap. Local news media plan to follow him around, he said, and ESPN has asked for a couple of TV appearances.

Similar to five years ago, when the Ducks lost to Ohio State in the 2010 Rose Bowl game, Finneran is going to meet up with The Big Nut — Ohio State’s superfan Jon Peters. They’ll do joint appearances and pose for fan photos.

Even though Finneran is confident of Monday’s game outcome (“The Ducks. I feel it.”), one possible indication could be this summer’s What A Fan Superfan competition in Orlando, which Duck Nut won — beating out Peters’ Ohio State The Big Nut for the trophy.

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