Canby High School senior and student-athlete Maddox Oliver was at a Chevron gas station in Eugene on October 22, fueling up and stretching his legs for the long drive home.
Maddox, his 16-year-old brother, Kellen, who’s also an athlete; fellow CHS senior and cross country teammate Ryan Petterson, and cousin Hayden Benedict were all still feeling the afterglow from watching the Ducks’ big win over UCLA on October 22.
That’s when they saw him: rookie head coach Dan Lanning, who has U of O at 7-1 and ranked No. 8 in the latest AP poll, parked at the adjacent pump with his blue Chevy Tahoe.
As recounted in a recent piece on Lanning’s success by prominent Oregon sports columnist and radio host John Canzano, the teens nudged and whispered to each other.
Maddox surreptitiously dialed his father, Canby businessman Ryan Oliver, and whispered, “Dad, you’re not going to believe this, but Dan Lanning is getting gas right next to us.”
Lanning — who, according to Canzano’s conversations with his parents, friends and former players, has retained the small-town mentality he inherited from his rural Missouri upbringing — noticed the young fans’ attentions and immediately struck up a friendly conversation and posed for pictures.
Then, the coach truly went the extra mile, pulling out his credit card and insisting on paying for their gas, saying it was the least he could do after they drove 200 miles to watch his team play.
“Dan Lanning … is the nicest guy ever,” Maddox wrote on the picture he posted to Twitter later that day.
Canzano wrote that he asked Lanning about the episode the following week, and he, characteristically, downplayed his good deed.
“He pointed out that the film Pay it Forward is one of his favorites,” Canzano writes. “He’s a movie fanatic and noted that it only rated a dismal 39 out of 100. ‘Phenomenal movie,’ Lanning said. ‘I can’t believe it’s rated that poorly on Rotten Tomatoes.'”
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