Full Circle with the Flock

Student to Teacher, Athlete to Author

Close-up photo of an Oregon Ducks football player in uniform.

Garren Strong ’07 came to the University of Oregon to pursue football and academics. That led to a mentor, a career, a calling, and, eventually, a book.

It all started during a recruiting visit when Strong discovered he loved Eugene and the UO campus atmosphere.

“I learned a lot and met a lot of good people, but perhaps the best part is the ongoing relationships,” he said. “Also, the coaching staff was really solid. I knew kind of what I wanted to get into as far as the academic side.”

What he got was a mentor in Whitney Wagoner, then director of the Warsaw Sports Business Center, and a path that led first to Nike, then to teaching a course for the Lundquist College of Business, and now a book.

Garren Strong and Whitney Wagoner.

Strong earned his BA in 2007 from the Lundquist College in business administration with a specialization in sports marketing.

“The Lundquist College and specifically the Warsaw Sports Business program opened my eyes to a lot of things beyond the field.”

The network Strong had at the UO propelled him into an internship at Nike as part of the brand marketing team for Nike Football.

“The work I put in outside of the field came to fruition in the form of interning at Nike in a dream role.”

That same network led Strong to an internship recruiting for Oregon football with Chip Kelly.

“I’m thankful for Coach Kelly giving me the opportunity to join his staff because it brought me clarity in the direction I wanted to head for my career.”

Garren Strong sitting on a cement wall, wearing Air Jordan shoes.

After interning with Kelly, Strong made his way back up to Nike for a 10-year career, finishing up leading the Air Jordan 1 franchise.

“It’s an honor to know that myself and the team was able to cement our place in the legacy of the Jordan brand.”

Garren Strong standing next to a bronze statue of the University of Oregon Duck mascott.

During his second time at Nike, Strong was approached by Craig Leon from the Warsaw Center about teaching a sports product class to second-year MBA students.

Some never learn. Some learn and never apply. Some apply but never teach. I spent time doing each.

Being back in the classroom at Lillis—this time as a teacher—felt like a full-circle moment for Strong.

“The students are very bright and very eager. I think the best part of it all was how they were open to learning and were very engaged with the course and had a lot of questions.”

Garren Strong.

Another full-circle moment for Strong is the publication of his book, Innovation University. In it, he examines UO’s influence on sports and pop culture through his first-hand account as a student-athlete—with scannable interactive elements that place the reader in the game.

“Tinker Hatfield and other alumni, especially a lot of the athletes and former teammates of mine, have been super supportive of the entire journey, which has made it special for me—being the person to help tell their story.”

Strong is staying busy promoting Innovation University in bookstores and serving on discussion and Q and A panels addressing the rebranding, design, and innovation of the Oregon football program with Hatfield. He also swung by the Mighty Oregon podcast, manages the CRCL of WNNRS brand and community, and serves on the Lundquist College Forty Under 40 Board.