EUGENE, Ore. — Lots of action inside Autzen Stadium as well as outside, as fans tailgated in anticipation for kick-off.
In Oregon, the Ducks football season opener is basically a holiday.
“Ducks football to me is like Christmas. It really is,” said AJ Quintero from Vancouver.
Thousands of fans gathered outside of Autzen Stadium, pitched their tents, lit their grills, and prepped themselves for the game hours before the kick-off to a new season.
“A first game is great. The atmosphere is fantastic. The people here are unreal,” said Andrew McCuistion from Portland.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Mariota again this year. Last couple of years, he’s been the man. This year, he really is the man. Nationally, locally—I just can’t wait to see what he’s going to do with the offense,” said Quintero.
Among the thousands of excited fans tailgating, it’s hard to believe there was a family bigger than this one.
“Twenty two members strong of our family came down,” said Sherry McCuistion.
Sherry McCuistion says all 22 of them came with one purpose—to celebrate a 23rd member, her son Kyle Holcomb, who died in February at the age of 31 from an undiagnosed heart condition.
“My son was a huge Oregon Ducks fan. He lived and breathed Oregon Ducks,” said Sherry McCuistion.
“He was one of the biggest Duck fans you’d ever meet. Funniest guy in the world and full of charisma,” said Andrew McCuistion of his older brother.
After Kyle’s death, his cousin, AJ Quintero, made a promise to the family to bring all 22 family members to the home opener. All 22 brought a little bit of Kyle along for the celebration.
“My cousin Kyle and I, since we were kids, came here to games together and this is a huge thing. We have pictures of him here and just growing up, Ducks were huge for both of us,” said Quintero.
“These are his ashes. My mom wanted us to bring a part of him and so everyone here has these. It’s just a way to bring him to the game with us and let him share in the atmosphere and the experience of doing this,” said Andrew McCuistion.
“My wish was that he’ll be shining down on us while we were celebrating him and the Ducks and his love for the Ducks. That’s happening,” said Sherry McCuistion.
The family says they hope to see the Ducks win the national title this year, as do other fans.