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Former Tigers get a chance to suit up again

A Tigard alumni football game is scheduled to be held in November
by: Jaime Valdez READY TO GO — Andy Hansen, a 1980 Tigard graduate, is ready for the Nov. 26 alumni football game.

TIGARD - Andy Hansen and Andrew O'Neal have a vision.

With that vision, they've created the Tigard Football Alumni Association, open to anyone who played in the past or has family in the program, to preserve its legacy.

The association will to hold an annual alumni barbeque dinner, open to friends and family and sponsored by Famous Dave's restaurant, before the first Tigard High School home game of each season, followed by an Alumni Football Game on Nov. 26.

Equipment will be handed out on the day of the game from 9 to 10 a.m., voluntary practice will run from 10 a.m. to noon, followed by lunch before a 5 p.m. kickoff under the lights. A 7 p.m. barbeque dinner will cap off the night. The price of participation is $50 per player to cover lunch and support for the game and overall fundraising efforts.

'What's going to be awesome is reliving the whole experience,' O'Neal envisions. 'Getting ready in the locker room, the speech before the game, the camaraderie of the offensive linemen in the corner huddling up and talking about what they're gonna do, the running backs talking about what they're doing. If you were a player, you know that you want to have a piece of that again. It's putting it all back on and going back into an age that was some of the best years of their lives.'

All alumni at the game will receive a Tigard High School alumni t-shirt and will receive special honors. A 'fifth quarter' will take place at Max's Fanno Creek Brew Pub on Southwest Main Street in Tigard.

Alumni donations are accepted graciously through the association to provide new helmets, weight room equipment and other such necessities for the Tigard football program.

Hansen belongs to the Tigard football class of 1980, O'Neal to the class of 2002. Hansen played football with O'Neal's offensive line coach at Tigard, and has coached within the program for nearly the last two decades. He won a championship with NCAA Division III Northwest Conference's Linfield College in 1982, as did O'Neal in 2004.

'I got into coaching because my kids were playing,' Hansen said. 'The thing that kept me in was that it's the closest you can get to the real experience as a player. I can't go out and play all the time like I used to because I'm too old, but you can get that close to the whole experience. I think anybody who ever played would love to come back and coach. What would be totally fun is to go out and play against my boys. (At Linfield) we still had an alumni game, so when I was playing as a college student, some of my old football coaches came back and played against me. This could end up being a lot like that.'

Hansen and O'Neal each have fond memories of anchoring the offensive line.

'I was playing left tackle, blindside to the quarterback, and if you mess up, the quarterback gets slammed in the kidneys and it's all on you,' O'Neal said. 'I took a lot of ownership of that and I loved it. I'd much rather be on the offensive side because you can control the ball and you know what's coming up next.

'I started out as a running back in high school - you get your name in the paper and all that kind of stuff - and then the coach asked me to play offensive line because we didn't have any linemen. I was like, 'Yeah, OK, whatever the team needs,' but then I went on and played four years in college and I look back and I told all my offensive linemen it's the ultimate team position - only when things go wrong do you get your name in the paper or somebody recognizes you. You have to be the smartest guy on the field because everything happens up front. Quarterbacks and running backs hate it when we say that.'

Reuniting players and coaches are what could make it all worthwhile.

Alumni who participate will be divided into two squads - odd and even graduation years - and each team can get together to organize plays, timing and terminology depending on which offense its veteran Tigard coach used to run.

'The guys before us were the backbone of the program - they blazed the way for us to go through,' Hansen said. 'We'll get some of the old coaches - like my old high school coach - to coach one of the teams, and we'll have him on the sideline with his old players. It'll be full-contact, referees, scoreboard, announcer, whole-game event. If people are still in town or mom and dad might be in town and say, 'Hey,' they call their kid up in Eugene, 'look what's going on''

But isn't it a huge challenge to find former players and coaches who have gone off into the world? Andy and Andrew don't think so.

'We've pulled lists from rosters, we've collected and built a significant database,' O'Neal said. 'I know friends who haven't been to a high school football game since they played in their last game, so that's priority number one. It's a great way for the family to be involved with the holiday weekend. We're trying to (motivate) people to come back and participate in the program they built up 10, 20 years ago.'

'I think a lot of programs really don't connect back with their alumni, and their alumni don't care that much because there's really nothing for them,' Hansen says. 'There's Homecoming, but that's for a whole different type of thing. We went and photocopied all the yearbooks since 1960 - all the team pictures - and then took all the names and tried to find addresses and send letters to everybody. We wanna try to get the old pictures - like a scrapbook online that they can go to with videos of games. I talked to one alumnus who lives in Michigan now - I told him that if he came out, he'd probably win the award for coming the farthest and being the oldest.'

In the end, it's all about the Tigard football family and its love for the game.

'You're gonna have a guy who was the quarterback 10 years ago throwing to a guy who played football 25 years ago - connecting all those generations is gonna be cool to see,' Hansen says. 'Dad played 20 years ago, and now his kid can come out and watch his dad play, or Mom and Dad can come out and watch their kid play one more time.'

Fall more information, call Hansen at 503-313-8898 or O'Neal at 503-888-6114, or e-mail tigardfootballalumni for more information. The association is also on Facebook.