Drake Conti of the Class of 1977 put several longstanding school records in jeopardy during his time as a Wildcat. Nearly three decades after he last suited up for Linfield, Conti remains the player to have come closest to topping fellow Hall of Fame inductee and former coach Ad Rutschman’s career standards for rushing yards and rushing attempts. He is also the former record holder in career all-purpose yards.
A four-year football letterman and two-time all-league honoree, Conti was a member of three Northwest Conference championship teams. After a breakout freshman year (404 rushing yards, five touchdowns) he led the team in rushing each of the next three seasons.
Statistically speaking, Conti’s junior campaign was his best. He scored eight touchdowns – six times rushing and twice receiving – while totaling 1,159 all-purpose yards, including 907 on the ground. The tailback was named to the NWC and NAIA District 2 all-star squads and was also a Little All-American NAIA honorable mention.
As a senior, Conti helped the ‘Cats achieve their second outright NWC crown in three seasons. The team went 7-2 that year, capped off with an appearance in the NAIA District 2 Oregon Bowl. Individually, Conti was accorded all-NWC honors, rushed for 775 yards and seven touchdowns and also totaled 117 yards and six points on the receiving end of the football.
In addition to ranking second all-time in career rushing yards (2,693), Conti recorded the second-most rushing attempts (567), all-purpose yards (3,898) and all-purpose yards per game (108.3) in Linfield history. In all, he ranks in the top 10 in 17 different statistical categories.
Conti is also remembered and revered for his leadership and character.
“Drake was not only a great athlete and teammate, but someone who cared about the continuation of the Linfield football tradition,” said former teammate James Taylor ’79. “Coming from a predominant minority environment of southern California, Drake managed to persevere, and in fact, excelled during his years at Linfield, not only as an athlete, but as an individual. He mentored all of us, and we all looked up to him.”
After graduating from Linfield with a business degree, Conti tried out with the Seattle Seahawks before pursuing his dreams in the fashion industry. This came as no surprise to Conti’s teammates, who were often coerced into posing as models during runway shows Conti hosted at the college president’s house.
Conti, who holds two post-graduate degrees, has worked as a designer and product manager for multiple labels, including Levi Strauss & Co. Among his career highlights are helping to design the 1980 Winter Olympics uniforms for the USA Bobsled and Luge teams, and his current role as the product development manager at Cut Loose.
He currently resides in Alameda, Calif., and has two daughters, Kristin and Kayla.