You would think someone would need to be able to clock a sub 4.5-second time in the 40-yard dash to join a self-titled football fraternity dubbed the Legion of Zoom.
But you’d be mistaken, said Washington’s Jaydon Mickens, one of the group’s founders.
“Forties really don’t matter to me,” the Husky junior receiver said. “You just have to play fast.”
Fast is the operative word when it comes to the Legion of Zoom or LOZ, a trio of Husky receivers that includes sophomore John Ross and junior Marvin Hall. Ross recorded the best time in the 40-yard dash at the UW combine this spring while running 4.29. Hall was second at 4.40.
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“There’s straight-line speed and there’s football speed,” Mickens said. “We’re all fast guys, but just being able to run fast isn’t enough. You have to make plays with your speed. Run away from people. Be dynamic and explosive. That’s LOZ.”
It started as joke and a way for childhood friends to cement their friendship. Mickens and Hall were high-school teammates at Dorsey High in Los Angeles. Ross attended Dorsey in the ninth grade before transferring to Long Beach Jordan High in Long Beach, Calif.
Of course, the LOZ nickname is derived from the Legion of Boom, the moniker the Seattle Seahawks secondary gave itself years ago. While the Hawks marched toward a Super Bowl win last season, Mickens had an idea.
“Jaydon was saying we should have a name for ourselves,” Ross said. “Out of nowhere he was like LOZ – Legion of Zoom. We all looked at each and said, ‘We like that.’ ”
They created handshakes, and t-shirts are on the way. “Got to get our financial aid (first),” Mickens joked.
“It’s not that we’re trying to single ourselves out from the rest of the group,” Ross added. “We just have this connection that’s amazing. We’re all from the same place, and we have so much in common on and off the field.”
If the LOB is big, hard-hitting and accomplished then LOZ is short, fast and relatively unproven.
Mickens, 5 feet 11 and 174 pounds, had a breakout season last year when he led the Huskies with 65 receptions for 688 yards, including 68- and 47-yard touchdown receptions.
“I’m just looking to build off of what I did last year and keep it going,” he said. “Honestly, I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.”
At 5-10 and 188 pounds, Hall is the shortest of the trio. He’s also been the least productive with just 10 receptions and 161 yards total the past two seasons.
“I haven’t had many opportunities, so I really didn’t showcase what I could do,” Hall said. “With the new coaches it’s a new start, so I feel like now I’m able to really get going and showcase what I can do.”
Ross capped what he described as a disappointing season last year with a dazzling performance in the Fight Hunger Bowl. He returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the 31-16 win over Brigham Young. It was UW’s first kickoff return for a touchdown since 2007.
“Before that game, I was just thinking, ‘When is my time?’ ” said the 5-11, 179-pound burner who had 16 catches for 208 yards last season. “Everyone knows what I’m capable of. I just told my guys, ‘Let’s just do it. We’re here. I’m going to catch it and I’m going to run. You guys handle everything else.’ I just wanted to run and show everyone I can run.
“And I thanked all of the guys up front for that because without them, it wasn’t going to happen. … I still feel like I disappointed myself. It was an OK year for me, but that’s not good enough. Now it’s my sophomore year and that’s all I’m worried about.”
Ross has other concerns these days. He wore a protective boot on his left foot and didn’t participate in Saturday’s open practice at Husky Stadium, which drew about 600 fans.
With Ross out Saturday, tight end Darrell Daniels may have garnered an LOZ invite after hauling in a 50-yard pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Troy Williams and outracing freshman safety Budda Baker into the end zone.
“That’s my route and I like the way he kind of outdid me right there,” Mickens said. “That was some speed and he was flying, so his application is in.”
Washington is looking for playmakers to replace departing stars such as quarterback Keith Price, running back Bishop Sankey and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins from an offense that ranked second in the Pac-12 last season in yards per game (499.3).
Aside from Mickens and senior receiver Kasen Williams, UW doesn’t return a pass catcher or running back with much experience.
“We have lots of guys on this team with the talent,” Ross said. “The opportunities are going to be there. It’s just a matter of doing it.”
• Senior TE Michael Hartvigson (right arm) also did not practice Saturday along with freshmen S Brandon Lewis, CB Aaron Chapman and WR Max Richmond.