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Cota, 1994 Ducks set for Hall of Fame

Moments before Oregon freshman cornerback Kenny Wheaton pulled off the "The Pick" in 1994, Ducks defensive back Chad Cota was blitzing off the edge.

Wheaton stepped in front of a pass from Washington quarterback Damon Huard with Oregon clinging to a 24-20 lead late, intercepting it at the UO 9-yard line and returning it for a game-clinching score.

In the years following, Cota has witnessed the Ducks sprout into a national power.

"We knew (the play) was special, but it was still early in the season," he recalls. "At that point, we didn't know it would be a game-changer for the entire program."

Oregon, which improved to 5-3 with the victory over the Huskies, finished 9-4 overall, claimed the Pac-10 title and advanced to the Rose Bowl.

That 1994 team will soon join four individuals as the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame and Museum's class of 2016. Oregon State NCAA champion wrestler Greg Strobel, OSU and NFL wide receiver Mike Hass, Oregon City girls basketball coach Brad Smith and Olympic swimmer Maureen Murphy will also be honored. Don Essig, longtime public address announcer at Autzen Stadium, will be recognized, as well.

The ceremony is set for Wednesday at Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland. A reception starts at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the 7 p.m. program. Veteran sportscaster Bill Schonely will be the emcee of the event. Tickets are $125 per person, or $1,200 for tables of 10.

The 45-year-old Cota starred at Ashland High before playing four seasons at Oregon. He was drafted by Carolina in the seventh round in 1995 and competed for the Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams over eight seasons. Cota retired in 2003.

His memories of '94 are vivid. The Ducks started the fall 1-2, but won eight of their final nine games en route to the school's first conference championship in 37 years.

Oregon, which lost to Penn State in the Rose Bowl, claimed or shared no fewer than 16 school records. Cota, who was a senior in 1994, was a first-team All-American and all-conference selection.

Rich Brooks received league and national awards as coach of the year.

Dave Cuttrell, who works for a Medford financial group, was an offensive lineman on the team. He grew up in Southern California before heading north to play for the Ducks in the early 1990s.

"We overcame so much that year," Cota says. "We had a slow start but we were a bunch of guys who came together with a common goal. It was the ultimate team. We didn't have any real superstar guys, but good guys who got after it and figured out how to win."

For more information, call 503-227-7466, email info@oregonsportshall.org or visit oregonsportshall.org.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. Find him onine at twitter.com/danjonesmt