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Allen returns to valley as key speaker

It's deeply imbedded in the psyche of Oregon football fans.

Jerry Allen's euphoric call of Kenny Wheaton's 97-yard interception return against the Washington Huskies, as the Ducks surged toward the 1995 Rose Bowl, has become Oregon's version of Russ Hodges' call of "the shot heard around the world" - Bobby Thomson's homer that gave the 1951 Giants the National League pennant.

Seems like yesterday, but it's been nearly seven years since Allen's call.

It may be hard to believe, but Allen has been the voice of the Oregon Ducks for longer than he called Black Tornado action in Medford.

Allen will be back in the Rogue Valley for Saturday's Youth For Christ/Campus Life Challenge 2001 Golf Tournament at StoneRidge Golf Club.

He'll be the keynote speaker at the 6 p.m. barbecue following the four-player scramble tournament.

Allen handled Medford High play-by-play for KYJC, where he was also general manager for 13 seasons. He also called Medford Mustangs and Medford A's games during his tenure that ended when he went to work for the University of Oregon in 1987.

"I love the Eugene area, but the Rogue Valley is still my home," says Allen, who now splits his time between a morning shift at KUGN, the Ducks' flagship station, and in the Oregon athletic department.

He became the dean of Pac-10 play-by-play announcers after Darrell Aune resigned at Oregon State two years ago.

"People move around a lot in this business," Allen says. "But I've been blessed to stay in Medford all those years and then being in Eugene since then."

Allen was a supporter of Campus Life ministries during his tenure at KYJC. As a father of three children (two grown and one UO sophomore) he understands the need for passing on his faith and the accompanying values to the next generation.

"When I talk to kids, I don't want to simply wave a Bible in front of them and say 'This is the right thing,'" Allen says. "I want to live an example, dropping hints of who I am and where I'm going."

Allen arrived just in time to catch the Ducks' rising football tide and has witnessed some historical moments on the basketball court as well.

This week he's doing reports from the NCAA track and field meet at Hayward Field.

"When I look at where I am in life and what I've accomplished, I've learned it wasn't me," Allen says. "The Lord has had a vision for me and put me in this position. Obviously, I'm thankful for it."

Allen says the same societal changes that allow kids to do their own thing allows them to make a decision to become a Christian.

"Kids are more independent today than 20 years ago," he says. "There still is peer pressure, but I can remember when it wasn't cool if you were a big, strong kid not to go out for football. If you were a big, tall kid you were expected to go out for basketball. You don't feel that same pressure today; you have the freedom to do what you want to do."

Allen remembers a time when there weren't many visible signs of Christianity on television beyond Billy Graham and Sunday broadcasts. The growth of athletes, actors and other professionals proclaiming their faith has given more youngsters a chance to see Christian examples.

"When they see this guy or that gal enjoying life," Allen says, "they want to know 'Why?'

"The message I want to bring to people is to never give up hope in bringing people to the light. People think it's too tough because they're working or too busy. But somebody is always looking or aware of you. If you give them a smile or encouragement, you can leave them an impression there's hope. They'll want to know what gives you hope.

"If you treat people in a bad way, that may be the straw that breaks the camel's back and they'd be pushed the other way."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4483, or e-mail