QB and 16 other Huskies seniors will be playing their final home game
Washington quarterback Jake Locker said earlier this week that he couldn’t imagine not playing in his last game at Husky Stadium on Thursday against UCLA.
He no longer has to worry after receiving medical clearance Tuesday night to take the field against the Bruins for the 5 p.m. kickoff.
Locker practiced all week after sitting out the previous two weeks of workouts, and a game at Oregon on Nov. 6, with a broken rib. And after Tuesday’s practice, doctors examined Locker one more time and pronounced him good to go.
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In the kind of thing that makes it clear that the days of Don James have long passed, UW coach Steve Sarkisian announced the news on his Twitter page around 7 p.m.
And no doubt the ESPN telecast will fixate on the game being the last at home for Locker, the boy-wonder from Ferndale who committed to UW in July of 2005, immediately deemed as the savior of the Huskies program.
But 16 other seniors will also make their last run through the tunnel Thursday.
Eight of those are starters, including the likes of linebackers Mason Foster and Victor Aiyewa, safety Nate Williams and receiver D’Andre Goodwin.
It’s a group whose ultimate legacy remains to be written.
Fifteen of the seniors are players brought to UW by former coach Tyrone Willingham.
And while they arrived envisioning winning seasons and bowl games with a program that seemed on the upswing with a 5-7 record in 2006, they have instead weathered a coaching change and more rebuilding.
Sarkisian this week said that perseverance makes this group stand out.
“I think for these guys what they signed up for 4 to 5 years ago is different than what they are doing now,” Sarkisian said. “And to their credit, from the moment I stepped onto this campus, they have been extremely willing to accept the things that we’ve tried to do and to battle through the adversity to show the mental toughness that they have shown. By no means has their career been easy and in a sense it makes me respect them almost maybe more than some other senior classes that I’ve been around because of what they have been through.”
Sarkisian says he thinks a fitting ending is winning the last three games and getting UW into a bowl game, which would be the program’s first since 2002 and stamp this class as the one that began to truly turn things around.
“For me, I just would like to see them be able to ride off into the sunset the way they hoped they would when they arrived on this campus,” he said.
Players, though, say that while things may not have gone as they would have drawn it up, they aren’t full of regret.
“I think in life, anything that’s bad, you always learn something good from it,” said center Greg Christine, who came to UW as a walk-on but has been on scholarship the last two years. “And I think this is one of those cases where you learn how to work hard and you learn that not everything comes easy. It’s definitely been a hard road to get to where we want to be. And we still aren’t there yet.”
That goals and games remain allows the players to not totally dwell on the impending end of their careers, even if it’s hard to ignore.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot more lately,” said cornerback Vonzell McDowell Jr., who said he’s finally understanding what former players used to tell him about how quickly time runs out.
“I didn’t believe it at first when the older guys told me that when I first came here,” he said. “But now I know what they are talking about. It goes really fast. It sneaks up on you.” Then he took a look around the stadium and said, “It’s here already.”
Christine described the careers for the senior class as “a roller coaster.”
But despite what in the standings were more downs than ups, he’d said he’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
“It won’t be emotional until after the fact and I’m not playing football,” he said. “Then it’ll be like, ‘Oh, my gosh — that was a lot of fun.’ “
• Sarkisian said freshman safety Sean Parker, a backup and key member of the nickel package, will be able to play. He suffered a stinger in practice on Sunday.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org