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In his senior year, Duck hopes for a TD

Playing hurt, backup tailback Chris Vincent plans a celebration for his first score
by: JONATHAN FERREY, Running back Chris Vincent, getting stopped by two Washington State defenders in a 2003 game, is back at tailback after two years as a linebacker.

EUGENE - Third-string tailback Chris Vincent has an idea for a touchdown celebration, and he hopes Oregon coaches give him a chance to score one this season - maybe even Saturday at Arizona State.

Vincent has many friends serving in the military in Iraq - mostly Marines, he says - and the Duck senior wants to score the touchdown and send them the game ball.

'I thought it would be a neat thing to do,' says Vincent, who has yet to reach paydirt in his career. He hasn't told coach Mike Bellotti or any assistant coaches about the idea.

Vincent, who lost relatives in theSept. 11, 2001, attacks, says he thinks about his buddies in harm's way.

'Some people don't come back, and they're over there fighting for our country,' he says. 'And we're over here living comfortably. When you get older, you appreciate that.'

At 25, Vincent is older than your average college football player. He is more experienced, too.

After high school in Philadelphia, Vincent went to prep school, signed and attended Louisiana State briefly, transferred to Oregon, played running back for two years with the Ducks, moved to linebacker for last season and then returned to the backfield.

All the while, the 6-1, 230-pounder has dealt with his share of injuries, which have limited his time on the field, especially at tailback.

As a freshman, it was a torn medial collateral ligament; as a sophomore, it was a hamstring; this season, it's a stress fracture in his foot (the same injury that has sidelined Seattle Seahawks star Shaun Alexander).

Bellotti praised Vincent for his effort both at Fresno State, where he carried the ball when starter Jonathan Stewart was injured, and against Oklahoma, when he returned kicks - all while nursing his sore foot.

Vincent will be remembered as somebody who put the team first. He switched to linebacker after the death of prep recruit Terrance Kelly. He switched to tailback this year after the departure of Terrell Jackson.

'Moving to linebacker helped me tremendously. I had never played linebacker in my life,' he says. 'I wanted to get on the field any way that I could. It also gave me an understanding of football from the defensive aspect.

'I give credit to defensive players. It's tough … the injuries you have to fight through. It takes mental toughness. That's what I learned, how to push myself.'

Tailback, he adds, 'is my natural position. I'm a big back, I ran a 4.3 (40-yard dash). I have some physical abilities.'

Vincent already has graduated in sociology, and he aspires to play in the NFL. His experience on offense, defense and special teams cannot hurt his chances. He also has connections: His uncle, defensive back Troy Vincent, plays for the Philadelphia Eagles; his good friend, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, plays for the Arizona Cardinals; and he grew up with running back Bruce Perry, another Eagles player.

In fact, people associated with Vincent and Perry's Philadelphia Pop Warner team, the Greater 69th Street Wildcats, gather every Saturday to watch the Ducks play.