On the football field, University of Oregon advertising alum and linebacker Derrick Malone Jr. wracks up tackles, yanks footballs from opposing player’s hands (Did you see that takeaway from the Rose Bowl?) and is a captain on the Duck football team that is one win way from the programs’ first national championship and the first in the era of the College Football Playoff.
At the UO School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC), Malone, who graduated after the 2014 fall term, is known more for his truthful, deep, and well-thought out writing. The future copywriter’s written word is so good that The Oregonian took notice and combined his two loves – football and writing – into a weekly blog called “Life as a Linebacker.”
Now on the eve of the biggest game of his life and with the eyes of the country on him and his Ducks, Malone, known as Poetic Soul by his friends, takes time to reflect on his time at the SOJC and on his work on the football field.
Why did you choose to major in advertising?
At first I was a business major, but it was dry. I didn’t have any creative control. I found out that advertising was in the journalism school and since I love to write, I decided to switch over and focus on copywriting.
How and when did you start writing and how has it evolved?
I started writing in the sixth grade. I used to write short stories because I was always in my imagination. As I got older, I started writing poetry and that’s how I got my nickname Poetic Soul. I started entering contests and I won a few times in high school.
I took one of Deb Morrison’s creative strategy classes and we had to have a blog. I thought this would be a chance to get my writing out there. I was nervous because writing is a vulnerable thing for me. I started writing and it went pretty well. My blog was blowing up. I’ve been writing in my blog for a year now. I started it because I thought that football players are surrounded by stereotypes. I wanted to break that. I write about what I had to eat that day, poetry, love, stereotypes, adversities I face, whatever is going through my mind.
For The Oregonian, I’ve been writing since the start of football season in August. I write about adversity, how I started playing football, memories that come to mind and similarities between games. I’m going to write one more entry – a conclusion. The reason I wanted to write a blog is because I’ve always wanted to write a book for freshman. I want the blog to be a blueprint for my book and I can expand on my ideas to finish it.
How has the SOJC helped you with your writing?
You meet so many talented writers. It is a very competitive field. There are so many people that make me wonder, “How can I be like them? How can I be that good?” I learned that you keep working at it and working at it. I credit the progression of my writing to the SOJC.
How do you transform your writing into the advertising industry?
I was confused at first as to how I was going to use my writing in the advertising field. I’ve always love commercials, especially athletic commercials. I want to be a copywriter for commercials. I found out that writers run the show. They are the heart of the commercials and the copy.
What would you tell students who are contemplating choosing a major in the SOJC?
I’ve bounced around with a couple of different majors and this has been the best experience. Everyone is helpful. You have friends and you are all putting in hard work. It feels like a family. This is one of the best decisions I made to come to the University of Oregon and to be a J-student.
What are your plans after your football career?
I want to work for Nike or an advertising agency making commercials and writing copy. It is up in the air right now, but I think that is the direction I want to go in.
You participated in New York’s Creative Week, an experiential learning opportunity visiting the cities top creative firms. What did you learn from the week-long trip?
When we went to New York for Creative Week it opened my eyes to what the industry demanded. A lot of people got jobs and interviews and I saw their portfolios and they were amazing. It let me know that I need to step my game up. I talked to people who gave presentations and I asked what they needed in a copywriter. It was rewarding. That was one of the highlights of my college career, going to New York City for Creative Week.
What is the best thing about making it this far in the playoffs?
The team has had a lot of ups and downs with injuries. The most rewarding thing has been seeing us fight through and band together like brothers. I get a little emotional sometimes. I am so proud of the guys and we earned our place in this championship.
You are done with school. What will you do after the National Championship Game?
I’m going to go down to Florida to train for the upcoming NFL Draft. Hopefully I will get picked up and get an opportunity to play. I’m excited to see what happens next for me.
Malone is one of three SOJC students who will see action in Monday’s National Championship game – junior running back and pre-journalism major Byron Marshall and redshirt freshman defensive back and pre-journalism major Juwaan Williams – will also travel with the Ducks.
Written by Celina Baguiao