EUGENE, Ore. — Justin Herbert likes playing golf almost as much as he likes playing quarterback. Almost.
“It’s relaxing,” he said.
But relaxation doesn’t come into play at 5:30 a.m. in July with roughly a dozen of his Los Angeles Chargers’ teammates, who flew to Herbert’s hometown of Eugene, Oregon, to participate in the first annual Justin Herbert Invitational on July 8 at Shadow Hills Country Club. Which started after Herbert and his Chargers teammates finished the 18 holes they started at 5:30 a.m. that morning.
“Are you tired?” I asked Herbert. “Never,” he answered.
He played the 10th hole with each four-some, and then drove the cart back to tee off again. Most of the time he drove the ball over the trees at lengths of roughly 300 yards. It was a scramble format, and he let the rest of the golfers take it from there after getting his drives in.
His first foursome included former Oregon kicker Aidan Schneider and former Ducks long snapper Devin Melendez, who claimed he had the best seat of all during his college career — on the sidelines, never having to take a shower.
Herbert looked happy and relaxed. His dad, Marc, and older brother, Mitchell, also played in the tournament and his mom, Holly, served as the hostess with the mostest, regaling fans with stories about Justin — including how her son thought he got his height not from his mom and dad (who are both tall), but from drinking milk.
Herbert’s younger brother, Patrick, who is currently a tight end with the Ducks, sat back and took it all in.
His Chargers teammates were out in force, including Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen, fresh off a season in which he caught 100 passes for 992 yards and eight touchdowns. Allen showed skills beyond football, giving an impromptu solo to a Jason Mraz song (yes, that Jason Mraz).
keenan allen fought a duck how was ur day pic.twitter.com/SqXUhKGP5r
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) July 8, 2021
Third-year defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, a first-round pick of the Chargers in 2019, and offensive tackle Storm Norton, complete with a man bun, also played in the tournament. Chargers kicker Michael Badgley and fullback Gabe Nabers were joined by Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts (who starred with both the Chargers and Oregon) and former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington, the No. 3 pick in the 2002 NFL draft who played seven seasons with the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.
They had food trucks stationed all around the course with catfish (a Herbert favorite) and fried chicken. For a first-time event it was impressive — just like Herbert’s rookie season, in which he completed 66.6 percent of his passes for 4,336 yards and an NFL rookie record 31 touchdown passes.
All the proceeds went to Kidsports, a nonprofit based in Eugene and an organization Herbert grew up with playing football, baseball, basketball and any other sport the group came up with.
“Kidsports meant the world to me,” he said. “It’s all for a wonderful cause.”
There was music … multi-talented musician Kelley James heckled the foursomes with well-researched freestyle rap lyrics, then performed at the after party. He got the crowd to belt out “Sweet Caroline,” a bar favorite in Eugene.
But James couldn’t get Herbert to join in. Either he was too shy or didn’t know the words.
It was festive and a welcome respite before training camp begins July 28 under first-year head coach Brandon Staley.