- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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EUGENE, Ore. -- As the Oregon football players filed into the annual media day last week, one thing was visibly clear from the start: One of these things was not like the other ones.
Yes, each player sported his green uniform. And all -- except one -- wore matching green shorts with their number on the thigh.
That one, redshirt senior Johnathan Loyd -- who will play as wide receiver on the 2014 team after exhausting his basketball eligibility at Oregon after last season -- was wearing black Jordan basketball shorts. He got the Nike part right, but the sport part wrong.
“It’s a part of me,” Loyd said. “It’s my personality.”
And though he’s not going to be playing any real basketball at all during the season, he’ll certainly still have that basketball part to his play and personality. But the more time he spends playing football, the smaller that part will be.
And he certainly noticed the basketball to football difference between day one of spring ball and day one of fall camp.
“When I came into spring, I was more in basketball mode,” Loyd said. “It’s definitely a different type of pace you have to play at. Because football, you play as hard as you can, then stop, as hard as you can, then stop. Basketball is more constant movement, you have to tempo yourself so you’re not out of control.”
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said he saw that kind of trepidation out of Loyd in the spring.
“The guy had a great attitude in the spring,” Helfrich said. “But you could tell that he hadn’t played football for five years and it’s not like he’s showing up and playing intramural flag football. He’s showing up and playing elite-level, Division-I football. There’s rust. There’s uncertainty, which then makes him slower than he really is in how he plays.”
Loyd said that what he needed to get rid of that rust was just a lot of repetition in order to build the football muscle memory and get rid of the basketball mentality. That point never hit during spring ball, but after two weeks of being thrown to by quarterback Marcus Mariota in the summer, it finally just became instinctual.
“I was able to play football rather than just think about playing football,” Loyd said.
With more free time in the summer, Loyd was able to get more film study in. He and fellow wide receiver Keanon Lowe watched Oregon tape as well as NFL film -- mostly Steve Smith and Wes Welker.
Loyd attributed much of his summer growth to Lowe, who helped remind him to exert total energy on each route because he’d get a break soon. Unlike basketball, there was no turn-around fast break or zone to retreat into. And while that might’ve taken Loyd a bit longer to grow accustomed to, he is used to it now and ready to fight for a spot at wide receiver, a spot he legitimately has a shot to earn some important reps at considering the lack of experience as a whole in the unit.
That’s not too bad for a football player who stills wears his basketball shorts.