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Beaver is benched, but he's not bitter

CORVALLIS - As the final seconds ticked off during Oregon State's victory at Washington last weekend, Beaver players celebrated on the sidelines. Nobody was happier than the guy wearing his baseball cap backward, and he hadn't played a down.

'I'm pretty competitive,' says Ryan Gunderson, the junior from Central Catholic who is OSU's third-string quarterback. 'I've learned about myself that I'm a great winner, but not a very good loser. It felt so good to beat the Huskies up there, with them thinking they were having a pretty good season and that we weren't. It was a huge win for us that will hopefully kick-start our season.'

Mind you, this from a player whose dreams of a standout college career and eventual shot at the NFL have pretty much been shattered. When the 6-5, 230-pound prep All-American passed on a late recruiting push from Tennessee to sign with Oregon State in 2003, he fully expected to take over the reins as a sophomore after incumbent Derek Anderson departed.

It didn't happen. First, transfer Matt Moore passed him on the depth chart, then promising freshman Sean Canfield did likewise.

The natural inclination would be for a young man to be bitter. To pout. To transfer, or to cause problems. Ryan Gunderson is not your normal young man.

'One word comes to mind when I think of Ryan: class,' Moore says. 'Ryan is the definition of class.'

Last year, Gunderson volunteered to hold for kicker Alexis Serna. He served as the sacrificial lamb at QB when, with Moore injured, the Beavers were sitting ducks for a pounding in the season finale at Oregon.

This year, he relays signals from the sidelines to the quarterback on every offensive play.

'I love doing it,' Gunderson says. 'It keeps me involved. I have a lot more interaction. I know what's going on from a coaching standpoint. I learn a lot about what's going through the coaches' heads during games.'

Gunderson is a coach's dream.

'Attitude, character, brains, the whole deal - Gundy's got it,' coach Mike Riley says.

Riley says in 30 years of coaching, he has never had a player handle a situation as well as Gunderson.

'Ryan is the ultimate team guy and a joy to have around,' Riley says. 'He means a ton to his quarterback group, to the offense and the whole team.

'The neat thing about him, he's still competitive and wants to do well. He practices hard and works at all his stuff. We need a lot of arms at the start of practice. He's the first one ready to go.'

'I'm not going to go out there and just loaf around,' Gunderson says. 'I'm not going to act like I don't care, because I care a lot. I want to win, and I want this team to do well. Whatever I can do, I'll do.'

Gunderson admits his ego has been tested at times.

'You're a fourth-year junior and you're not playing, and you're probably not going to,' he says. 'You swallow your pride a little bit when someone else is playing and being successful. But I don't let that show very much, and I don't think I've had to (swallow pride) when it comes to success in other areas.'

A 3.2 student in construction engineering, Gunderson would like to combine a career in construction with a coaching position at the collegiate level.

'The construction engineering management program here is really good,' he says. 'On the average, every graduate gets three job offers. That's tough to pass up, but college coaching really intrigues me.'

Riley says Gunderson would get strong consideration for a graduate assistant's position once he has his diploma.

'He would be a great coach,' Riley says, 'but Gundy would be good at anything he wanted to do.'

Before the OSU-Washington game, Gunderson had a conversation with Husky reserve QB Johnny DuRocher, an ex-Duck.

'We kind of said, 'Who knew coming out of high school this is the situation we'd be in?' ' Gunderson says. 'But I've really enjoyed it at Oregon State. It's been a very positive experience. I've made a lot of great friends. I enjoy going out to practice every day and being around the guys. School is going good. I've learned so much about life.'

And, in the process, taught a little about it, too.