Born and raised in Prineville, Oregon, Darrel Aschbacher did it all.
“I think he is going to be remembered as the guy who had dreams and found them,” said his daughter, Darlene.
As described by his kids, David and Darlene, Darrel was a character, athlete and legend.
“From the hayfields of Prineville to the academic, sports, athletic world of the University of Oregon to the NFL to airlines and being a pilot, traveling all over the world,” Darlene said. “That’s Darrel Aschbacher.”
Darrel’s first dream started before he even graduated high school.
“He bought a Piper Cub airplane and he flew it around for several months. And grandad found out about it and grandad wasn’t very happy,” David said with a laugh.
The sky was the limit and nothing was stopping Darrel.
“Seventeen years old with a Piper Cub,” said Darlene. “Who the hell taught him to fly? Who helped him get that Cub?”
One of his Piper Cub airplanes is at the Erickson Aircraft Collection at the Museum in Madras.
At the same time Darrel was flying through the skies of Prineville, he was making history on the gridiron at Crook County High School. He won two state titles as a Cowboy in 1952 and 1953.
After some time off from the field, he returned as a Bronco for Boise Junior College — now known as Boise State University.
He then transferred to the University of Oregon.
David and Darlene were five and six, watching their dad play at Oregon.
“It was great because we were introduced to culture, PHDers and musicians and artists and football players,” said Darlene.
As a senior, Darrel helped the team reach the 1958 Rose Bowl, losing to the Ohio State Buckeyes by three points.
“The comrade, the community the family that is created is extraordinary. And the great thing about it is the extended family of the player is included in,” Darlene said.
Darrel went unselected in the 1959 NFL Draft, but a familiar face wanted him on the team.
“Dad was recommended by Norm Van Brocklin, and I have several of those things where Norm Van Brocklin said he wanted dad,” David said.
Van Brocklin, a former Oregon Duck and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who went to the Hall of Fame, persuaded the team to give Darrel a tryout. He made the final roster.
His roommate in Philadelphia was another name people will recognize: John Madden.
David had the chance to watch his dad play pro football during a preseason game in Portland.
“It was a big deal and dad was bid deal even for that,” said David. “So, that was a lot of fun. And we knew a lot of people that came to watch him and the Philadelphia Eagles play. They played the Green Bay Packers and they beat them.”
After a short stint with the Eagles and the 49ers, Darrel went on to do what he planned to do from the start — become a pilot.
“Pilots were looked at as being extraordinarily important because it was the beginning of that era of flying,” Darlene said.
He was a pilot for Delta Airlines for 30 years before retiring and moving back to where it all started in Prineville.
Darrel died July 15. A Memorial service was held last Thursday.
“You’ve got a team, the airlines, the Rose Bowl and all the people he interacted with on that,” Darlene said. “It was about telling the stories that impacted you personally.”
Throughout his life, Darrel left a legacy along the way.
“He’s done as many things off the field as he has on the field,” David said.
“He lived exactly his dreams, and he died exactly the same way,” Darlene said.