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Oregon football coach Dan Lanning’s ‘Psychotic Edge’ inspires the Duck team

Late last fall, a bitter 90-degree cold settled in Eugene, Oregon. The Oregon Ducks football team ran out on the icy grass at the Hatfield-Dowlin Center. As their cleats crunched, some players paid more attention to the freeze than others. Distracted, the team’s energy was noticeably dissipated by the cold.

Oregon football coach Dan Lanning did something no one expected: He took off his warm Nike sweatshirt and started calling plays shirtless in the frigid air.

His players looked at each other with misty breath and realized they didn’t have a normal coach. Lanning’s move ignited his team and got training back up to par. His players still talk about that day.

Oregon Ducks head coach Dan Lanning (center) leads quarterback Bo Nix (10) and Ty Thompson (13) onto the field

November 18, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Oregon Ducks head coach Dan Lanning (center) leads quarterback Bo Nix (10) and Ty Thompson (13) onto the field for the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Mountain America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon linebacker Bryce Boettcher smiles as he describes Lanning as “psycho in his own way.”

“Lanning is a great coach and cares about his players,” Boettcher told Bri Amaranthus of Oregon SI. “He’s like, I don’t want to say psychotic, but there’s almost a psychotic quality to him, which makes him so fun to be around.”

“When he’s coaching you, he always has that look in his eye that he’s ready for anything,” Boettcher said.

The buck stops with Lanning, who earns his team’s respect through his own grit.

When he was 24 years old, Lanning drove across the country at night from Missouri to Pittsburgh in search of his first D1 College Football coaching job. Lanning suited up at a gas station as the sun rose, turning a cold email into a foot in the door with the Pittsburgh Panthers, where his ambition and tenacity defined his coaching career.

While his Duck players may not know the lengths he went to to get the keys to Oregon’s football program, they do enjoy Lanning’s competitive nature.

“It gets you excited knowing he’s just as willing to put on the pads and play with you as he is to coach you,” Boettcher told Amaranthus. “When you have a coach who wants to put on the pads with you and play, it makes you want to play for him. That’s what I respect about him.”

Oregon wide receiver Tez Johnson echoed Boettcher’s sentiment about Lanning’s quest for greatness.

“It’s so competitive (in training),” Johnson told Amaranthus. “You’d think we’d be playing in a national championship game against whoever — we’re practicing so intensely.”

Lanning is one of college football’s brightest young coaches and an excellent defensive mind. The focus is not just on the competition. His team DNA comes from responsibility and toughness.

This season, Lanning leads Oregon to its first season in the Big Ten Conference. While questions arise about how the Ducks will fare against the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and others, Lanning has built a roster to envy, with the best transfer class in the conference.

But more importantly, Lanning has infused the Oregon football program with his work ethic, which his players now follow in their own “psycho” ways by leading by example.

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