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Oregon Football

Q&A: Former Duck Jaiya Figueras

March 9, 2020

Back in the 90’s Oregon would have some big seasons and then some tough seasons. They didn’t recruit at the level Oregon fans have grown accustomed to under the latter years of Rich Brooks, Mike Bellotti, during Chip Kelly and now under Mario Cristobal. 

Some of the players that came through the program in the 90’s, like safety Jaiya Figueras had to wait until junior and senior years to have the chance to make an impact. That time was a big change in Oregon football going from winless seasons to Rose bowl berths. 

It’s always great to find out what some of those players are up to these days and how much attention they pay to the current Oregon program. We did that with former safety Jaiya Figueras who now works in California and still remains heavily involved in football. 

Hello, Jaiya. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. How have you been? What keeps you busy now days? 

JF: Thank you for giving me the time! I love the Ducks and I appreciate everything you’re doing to keep us on the map. Shout out to all the Ducks all around the world!  

One of the biggest projects that I’ve recently completed is my book and video series on athletic performance: “Cats Not Bears: Athletic Movement Efficiency in Open Space.” It’s an evolution of what I learned from the legendary coach James Radcliffe at the University of Oregon. 

I’m doing a Kickstarter for that project that ends on March 21, 2020. Here is the link:

I’m also substitute teaching in the La Mirada School District and coaching football at La Mirada High School in California.  

I’m still a lifelong strength and conditioning coach, but in my later years, I’m looking forward to writing and presenting more. My body has begun to break down lately. 

What was your recruitment like? What age did it start? Did you enjoy the process? Which Duck coaches were your main recruiters? 

JF: I started being recruited after my junior year by recently retired coach Steve Greatwood. The coaches were straightforward with me with where they saw me in their defensive scheme. 

Coach (Rich) Brooks came to my house, and my mom promised him if they offered me Oregon would go to the Rose Bowl.  

When did you decide you wanted to commit to Oregon? Had you not picked the Ducks, which school do you think you would have ended up at? 

JF: I originally chose to play at Washington State and picked up the phone to call them, but it was busy (no double line), and I hung up the phone and thought about it. The next day, I did a pros-and-cons list between Oregon and Washington State, and Oregon ended up winning -- mostly due to weather and distance from L.A.  

What were the major factors in committing to Oregon?  

JF: The major factor when committing to Oregon was the opportunity to get on the field early. I played all special teams my freshman year because we had Chad Cota, one of the best safeties to ever play at Oregon, ahead of me. 

Can you share a funny recruiting story, not necessarily has to be about you, that you experienced or heard about?  

JF: Oh, man. Well, I mentioned earlier that my mom told coach Brooks that if he offered me a scholarship, we’d win the conference and make it to the Rose Bowl. What I didn’t say is at that exact moment, a roach crawled up the wall to back her up! LOL. 

My mom said, “See, HE’S even saying you should take my son. We need this!”  

Legendary! What was the best part about your time on campus as a student-athlete? 

JF: The best part was meeting all the locals and families that were from Oregon. It’s a totally different culture. 

I spent a lot of time playing Afro-Cuban music with a family of Gypsies and hippies my last two years. They bought the land and built their entire compound. They did it as a family. No outside help. 

It was legendary.   

If you could change anything about recruiting and/or being a student-athlete, what would that be? 

JF: I would have appreciated the moment more. I didn’t realize how special and rare it was to get a football scholarship to a Pac-10 (now Pac-12) school. I was so focused on training and getting out that I didn’t stop to smell the roses. 

I just signed my letter of intent by myself in my room and sent it off. It wasn’t a big deal to me, because I had no idea about the gravity of the situation. 

Have you had any contact with coach Mario Cristobal since he took over? They really seem to be trying to create a family atmosphere and value former Ducks. Can you tell me any interactions you have had, and what your feelings are in regards to the direction of the program? 

JF: I’ve reached out to him on Twitter, but I’m not sure if he’s running that account. I love the staff. The strength and conditioning coach is awesome. Oregon needs a character at that position in order for us to prosper. 

I love the focus we are putting on strength and the ability to compete in big-time bowl games. The swagger we have now is off the charts. 

Go Ducks! 

Awesome. Thank you, Jaiya. Have a great weekend, and Go Ducks!



Tags: Football, Oregon
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