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Okun thankful he’s back with Ducks

EUGENE — Zach Okun does not remember the play in practice that sent him to the hospital, and he will never forget the feeling that his football career could have been over.

Oregon’s redshirt freshman offensive lineman was injured Aug. 17 on the practice field at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, and the school called for an ambulance to transport him to PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend with a possible spinal injury.

“I don’t really remember what happened, hit head-to-head and just went down,” Okun said.

Okun had an MRI and was allowed to return home that night. He said he was diagnosed with “a concussion and some other thing, but I will be alright.”

“It definitely could have been worse,” he said. “I am thankful, but I am just focusing on football again and trying to get rid of the whole distraction.”

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said the team used caution by sending Okun to the hospital.

“Our medical staff does an awesome job with those situations,” he said. “That is one of those that got a lot of notoriety, but any time something like that happens, you prepare and anticipate the worst. I thought it was an exceptional job by all involved in a cover all-your-bases situation.”

Okun was back in the Moshofsky Center watching practice Friday.

“It just takes a minute to kind of trust yourself again, but I am doing the best I can,” he said. “Get out there and be the best teammate I can be and try to recover.”

Okun said he is day-to-day but added “obviously it will be a little bit, but I am doing my best to get back out there as soon as I can.”

The 6-foot-4, 315-pounder from Newbury Park, Calif., graduated early from high school to join the Ducks for spring practice in 2015 before sitting out a redshirt season.

Okun said he was “just chilling, not doing a lot” when he returned to watch practice last week but is grateful for the opportunity to continue his career.

“That could have been my last play,” he said. “I can’t take it for granted. I have to enjoy every day here. It is a beautiful place, and I want to spend as much time playing football as I can.”