A lifelong Oregon fan, Elijah Molden says he will sign with the Huskies on national signing day next week. Former Oregon star Alex Molden says his son's football IQ is "off the charts."
If he’s being honest, the notion of wearing purple is still difficult to stomach for Alex Molden. He’s trying to have an open mind, at least.
A Christmas present from his wife, Molden has a new black “W” hat that he just might wear out of the house one of these days. That he will soon be rooting on the Washington Huskies, once his biggest rival, hasn’t entirely settled in.
Elijah Molden, the second of Alex and Christin’s eight children, will sign a letter of intent with the Huskies on national signing day next week. A four-star cornerback, he’s one of the jewels of a UW recruiting class ranked among the top 20 nationally.
Alex Molden was an all-Pac-10 cornerback on the Oregon Ducks’ 1994 Rose Bowl team and is a member of Oregon’s Hall of Fame, and he fully supports his son’s decision to play for the Huskies — if a bit reluctantly at first.
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Elijah, if he’s being honest, never thought he would wind up at Washington, either.
“No, not at all,” Elijah said this week.
Growing up attending Ducks games, visiting the Oregon locker room, cheering on his parents’ alma mater, Elijah had forever envisioned himself playing in Eugene, too. His first scholarship offer, after his freshman year at West Linn High School outside of Portland, was from Oregon. His mom is also an Oregon graduate, and his coach at West Linn was former Oregon quarterback Chris Miller.
“He’s been kind of bred, maybe even brainwashed, into being a Duck,” Alex said.
Need another example of how quickly, how dramatically the college football hierarchy has shifted in the Northwest? Look no further than the Moldens.
Less than a year ago, when the Huskies offered Elijah a scholarship and first broached the idea of the Moldens taking a potential visit to UW, Alex scoffed. “You’re a Duck,” he told his son.
It was Christin who suggested Elijah reconsidered the Huskies’ offer. She mentioned her admiration for UW coach Chris Petersen, who in 1995 was in his first year as Oregon’s wide receivers coach when Alex was a senior. Alex begrudgingly agreed to a trip to Seattle.
“Because of Coach Petersen, I said, ‘OK, let’s check it out, take a look so we can check the box and move on,’” Alex said. “And then (Elijah) went up there and he loved it. Just the atmosphere, the campus, the chemistry and the culture that Coach Petersen was building. He loved Coach (Jimmy) Lake and how he coached. It’s very similar to how I taught him — seeing the big picture on defense and understanding offenses and knowing your role.
“So (Elijah) came back and he was ecstatic. We asked him: ‘Could you really see yourself going to school (at UW)?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I could.’ I was like, ‘Oh, no!’” Alex added with a laugh.
In October, Elijah made his official recruiting visit to Oregon the weekend that the Huskies clobbered the Ducks, 70-21, in Eugene. A month later, he made his official visit to Seattle the weekend USC upset the No. 4 Huskies. The game’s outcome didn’t matter much, Elijah said; he had announced his commitment to the Huskies before the game.
“The atmosphere (at Husky Stadium) was crazy,” Elijah said. “I really love Seattle. It’s a beautiful city, and the stadium is amazing. … I’ve never seen that much purple.”
Husky legends Napoleon Kaufman, Lincoln Kennedy and Billy Joe Hobert — guys Alex had competed against in the early 1990s — all reached out to Alex after Elijah’s commitment.
“They told me he’s in good hands and that they were super excited he’s going to be a Husky,” Alex said. “They were the big, bad guys of the Pac-10 — they were the bullies when I first got to Oregon in ’91.”
The Huskies, coming off their first conference championship since 2000, are the bullies again in the Northwest, returning to prominence as the Ducks sank to 4-8 and fired coach Mark Helfrich in November. (Oregon’s hiring of Willie Taggart, Elijah has said, didn’t change his feelings about UW.)
Alex said he has been especially impressed by UW’s defense, and he believes Elijah will fit in well. Alex was a first-round pick in 1995 who played eight years in the NFL. He said Elijah is more advanced than he was at the same age.
“His football IQ is off the charts,” said Alex, who often breaks down film of NFL and college defenses with his son. “He might know more about playing defensive back than most rookies or second-year guys coming into the NFL. No joke.”
Elijah was also a standout running back in high school, rushing for 186 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries to lead West Linn to its first state championship in December, a 62-7 victory over Central Catholic.
“(Elijah) looked like Gale Sayers,” Miller told The Oregonian after one November game. “He cut it back like three times and went to the house. He’s pretty special with the football in his hands. He’s quite the presence. He’s a difference-maker, man. There’s nobody like him in our state. There’s nobody that can do what he does and is as explosive as he is.”
Elijah said he’s never wavered in his commitment to the Huskies and was disappointed when defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu, another touted recruit from Oregon, flipped his commitment from the Huskies to USC earlier this week.
On Wednesday evening, the Moldens are scheduled to host Petersen, Lake and UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith for dinner, perhaps the perfect occasion for Alex to debut some of his new Husky gear.
“I’m going to wear it and I’m going to be proud of it,” Alex said, “but just give me a little more time to acclimate.”