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Duck flies on home

• Ex-UO star Ahmad Rashad
by: JENNIFER POTTHEISER, On the set of “Tuesday Night With Ahmad,” host Ahmad Rashad talks basketball. This Sunday, however, he’ll be talking all kinds of sports as master of ceremonies at the Oregon Sports Awards.

About this time every year, Derek Jeter holds his annual Turn 2 charity event in New York. The last two years, Ahmad Rashad has had to turn down the Yankee shortstop's invitation.

'I've had to tell Derek, 'No way, I can't go. Oregon's calling,' ' says Rashad, who will serve as master of ceremonies for Sunday's Oregon Sports Awards show at the Tiger Woods Center on the Nike campus.

The former University of Oregon football great played host a year ago for the first time to the annual OSA event that honors the state's players, coaches and administrators. Rashad says it's a perfect fit for him.

'No matter how you look at it, I'm an Oregonian,' says Rashad, the award-winning broadcaster who, as Bobby Moore, was an All-America running back for the Ducks as a senior in 1971. 'Sometimes people grow up in one place and end up moving away and never coming back. Even though I've been away for 30-some years, it's important to me to stay involved with the Northwest.

'I feel extremely proud to be a part of this awards show. When they first asked me to do it, I was very excited. In my business, you wind up emceeing a lot of shows. This one's a little bit special. I know the state is proud of me, and I'm proud of the state of Oregon.'

It was an eventful end of 2007 for Rashad, who married Sale Johnson on Nov. 19 - his 58th birthday - in a ceremony in New York City. Rashad and his new bride - the ex-wife of New York Jet owner Woody Johnson - had been dating for about three years.

Being married again 'has been a beautiful thing,' Rashad says. 'She can even beat me in golf occasionally.'

In September, the couple took a vacation to Oregon.

'We played golf at Bandon Dunes, then at Eugene Country Club, and then we went to the Fresno State game,' he says. 'She's become a big Duck fan.'

In December, Rashad was one of 13 men - including Doug Flutie - to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

'What a tremendous thrill,' Rashad says. 'To know what I did gives recognition to Oregon is hugely satisfying.'

Rashad led the Pac-8 in scoring in 1969 and 1970 from both the running back and wide receiver positions. He was All-America as a senior and set 14 UO records. He was the fourth pick in the 1972 NFL draft, by the St. Louis Cardinals, and made the NFC all-rookie team at the start of a 10-year NFL career that included four Pro Bowls, one Pro Bowl MVP (1979) and one Super Bowl appearance (1976 season) with the Minnesota Vikings.

Duck season had high, low

Oregon football remains a passion for Rashad. Moments before he conducts the phone interview, he had picked up a former UO teammate - fullback Jim Anderson - at the airport.

Rashad says he watched several games during the past season and enjoyed the Ducks' early march to a No. 2 national ranking before the knee injury to quarterback Dennis Dixon.

'The Ducks were one of the most exciting teams I've seen in a long time,' Rashad says. 'You got overwhelmed when you watched them play. I loved their style of offense - it would be very hard to outscore them. Dennis was one of the greatest college players I've seen in a long time.

'Oregon was already on the map, but the whole country sort of woke up and recognized the University of Oregon as a major football power. They have a great program and a great coach. I can't say enough about Mike Bellotti. If I were coming out of high school again, he'd be the kind of guy I'd want to play for.

'And by Oregon being able to keep him, it keeps us right there in the hunt for a national championship.'

When Dixon was lost for the season with the injury against Arizona, Rashad was watching on TV with a group of friends.

'I almost cried, I was so sad,' Rashad says. 'It was like somebody punched me in the gut.'

Show keeps host up on NBA

Rashad is in his second season as host and producer of two shows - 'NBA Access With Ahmad Rashad' on ABC and 'Tuesday Night With Ahmad,' a talk and pregame show on NBA TV.

'It's been fabulous,' Rashad says. 'A magazine show like 'NBA Access' is one of the things I got into the business to do. To serve as executive producer and be able to create things and do it like I want to do it is a lot of fun at this point in my career.

'And the Tuesday night show keeps you on top of things in the NBA on a weekly basis. The involvement is perfect.'

Rashad's personal life goes on smoothly. He and his new bride - and their yellow lab and golden retriever - divide time between residences in Manhattan; Greenwich, Conn.; and Palm Beach, Fla. The father of four and grandfather of five - including 1-year-old Ahmad Rashad III - continues to live the good life.

'I'm blessed,' he says. 'And I'm looking forward to seeing all my friends in Oregon this weekend.'

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When, where: Sunday at the Tiger Woods Center on the Nike World Campus in Beaverton. Reception at 5 p.m., show from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

TV, radio: Live at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and 1080 AM the Fan. Pre-show coverage at 5:30 p.m. on 1080 AM the Fan.

Host: Ahmad Rashad, Emmy-award winning broadcaster, University of Oregon/NFL star and College Football Hall of Fame member

Ambassador: Bill Schonely, founding broadcaster/ambassador, Portland Trail Blazers

Celebrity presenters: Greg Oden, Derek Anderson, Jerry Glanville, Dick Fosbury, Steven Jackson, Harry Glickman and Dathan Ritzenhein

Awards: 14 categories - Johnny Carpenter prep athletes of the year, male and female; Harry Glickman pofessional athletes of the year, male and female; Bill Hayward amateur athletes of the year, male and female; Slats Gill sportsperson of the year; George Pasero team of the year; Ad Rutschman small-college athletes of the year, male and female; Nike-Steve Prefontaine award; Les Schwab Friend of Sports award; Lou Burge Special Olympics athlete of the year; merit awards. … All of the awards, except the merits, are based on performance in 2007. … A statewide panel of media and sports experts votes on the awards.

Tickets: $50, with complimentary hors d'oeuvres and beverages before the show, and coffee and desserts afterward. Call 503-721-7477, ext. 17.