On Wednesday, Pettis watched with pride as his father, Astros third-base coach Gary Pettis, won the World Series title. On Saturday, Dante set an NCAA record for punt-return touchdowns.
In the annals of good weeks, Dante Pettis’ will be hard to beat.
On Wednesday, he watched with filial pride as his father, Astros third-base coach Gary Pettis, won the World Series title with Houston’s 5-1 victory over the Dodgers. In a distinguished 11-year playing career and 22 years as a coach, Gary had never won a ring — coming as close as you possibly can in 2011 — so you can imagine the excitement that radiated through the family.
Then came the capper on Saturday — maybe not worthy of a champagne shower, but certainly a notable achievement that will also provide a Pettis with a lasting legacy. The Washington wide receiver did what he now has done more prolifically than anyone in NCAA history, taking a punt 64 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
That electric moment, Pettis’ ninth career punt return for a TD, an NCAA record, broke a 3-3 tie and provided a clear and visible rallying point for the Huskies, who blitzed Oregon for the second straight year, 38-3 — speaking of satisfying weeks.
For good measure, Pettis hauled in a 47-yard touchdown pass from Jake Browning at the outset of the second half, just in case the Ducks were getting any ideas of a late rally. And guess who witnessed it all? Gary Pettis, who flew in after the victory parade in Houston on Friday and was there to give Dante a postgame hug.
“This week has just been insane,’’ Dante Pettis said. “A lot of blessings coming our way.”
Pettis’ whirlwind week had begun, more or less, on Tuesday, when Huskies coach Chris Petersen allowed Dante to fly to Los Angeles for the potential clinching Game 6 — but the Dodgers won that one. It was not an unprecedented anticlimax for Dante, who as a teenager in 2011 had been in St. Louis for Game 6 of the World Series to watch his dad, then a coach with the Texas Rangers, wrap up the title.
You might remember what happened instead: The Rangers were one strike away from the title — twice — only to lose one of the most heartbreaking games in baseball history. They lost Game 7 as well, again with a young, devastated Dante in attendance.
“I don’t think we could have lasted another heartbreak like that,’’ Pettis said.
Pettis knew it was unreasonable to expect Petersen to grant a second trip to L.A. — not with rival Oregon looming in just three days — so he settled himself in his bedroom of the house he shares with his older sister (who was in attendance at Dodger Stadium) to watch on television. He was alone, by design.
“I couldn’t be around other people,’’ he said. “I was too stressed out.”
When the last out came and the Astros celebrated, Pettis waged his own celebration, running around the house, FaceTiming his best friend and soaking it all in.
“We were just going crazy,’’ he said.
Now flash-forward to Saturday, a cold, wet, miserable night at Husky Stadium, and it was Pettis’ punt return that made the Huskies go crazy. It was his fourth of the season, and his first since Week 3 against Fresno State — not that he was getting antsy or anything.
“Punt returns for touchdowns are rare, so it’s not like if you don’t get one you go, ‘Oh, man,’ ’’ he said. “I already had three this year, so it wasn’t like I haven’t gotten a punt return in a long time. Each week, I was just going into it trying to get the best return I could.”
On this one, he shot past one Oregon defender after he caught the ball, wormed his way through three big linemen, and then beat the punter into the end zone. Pettis admitted he began celebrating about 20 yards before he got there, after looking around to make sure no one could catch him. Fittingly, his touchdown celebration was an homage to his father, whose aggressiveness in the third-base coaching box was widely praised throughout the postseason. After reaching the end zone, Pettis pinwheeled his arms emphatically.
“That was my dad waving people home,’’ he explained with a smile.
If last year’s win over Oregon was marked by giddy relief the Ducks’ 12-year streak over the Huskies was over, this was a workmanlike affirmation — if the standings didn’t already make it clear — that the balance of power in this rivalry has officially switched.
Oregon opened the game with a crisp drive to Washington’s 12 that resulted in a field goal, then proceeded to get dominated for the duration.
Pettis’ punt return was a point of demarcation in the rout, as Browning acknowledged, but the quarterback added, “I’m pretty convinced if he didn’t return the punt, we still would have got some momentum going.”
Pettis was asked if he felt like he one-upped his dad by putting his name in the NCAA record book.
“I don’t know if I can one-up the World Series,’’ he said. “I don’t know which one’s better. I’ll take both.”
Far from being exhausting, Pettis said the frenetic week was “awesome.” He was looking forward to spending time with his dad and the rest of the family to relive the title run, and probably the touchdown run as well.
“He’ll be riding that for the next couple months,’’ Dante said of the championship. “We all are. I know that earlier in the week, we were all going crazy, feeling great about ourselves. I’m sure they’re still going crazy after this game.”