The 27-year-old Gresham, Ore., resident was watching Oregon beat California in September and came up with an idea for a T-shirt.
"Welcome to Autzen: Where Teams Go to R.I.P."
He grabbed a pen and paper and sketched his idea, complete with a Grim Reaper, with the Reaper making the 'O' with his hands.
Walbridge took the sketch to a graphic designer and she "agreed to do it for free, and I’d pay her later on down the road. When I started this, I only had $80 dollars to do this entire thing."
One hurdle remained. Walbridge needed to get the university to sign off on the design, which was much edgier than traditional Duck merchandise.
Two weeks before Oregon played host to USC in a Halloween night game, Walbridge camped out at the office of Nita Nickell, the university’s assistant director of marketing and brand management.
"Eventually she [saw] me because I wouldn’t leave," Walbridge said.
Although Nike has exclusive rights to the 'O', Walbridge's idea was approved because the Grim Reaper was making the 'O' with his hands.
The shirts were an instant success, selling out as soon as they reached stores. "I grossed about $50,000 in one week," Walbridge said.
When the department store chain Fred Meyer ordered 2,000 of the shirts, Walbridge quit his job as a customer service representative for a car dealership. He's working on several other designs, including including a yellow shirt with a green Grim Reaper that he hopes to unveil at the "Civil War" game against Oregon State on Dec. 3. He has also started a website.
"It's crazy, going from my wife and I wondering how are we going to pay our car payment, how are we going to pay rent? We were just living day to day," he said.
"I had no money to do this. I just had a dream and I got told, 'No!,' more times than I'd like to admit."
Thanks to Image of Sport.