There are two constants in this story: the subject, and the setting.
On Aug. 27, 2012, Justin Glenn — a Mukilteo native and former Kamiak High School standout — leaned forward in his chair at the University of Washington, with a purple block “W” printed on his chest. The UW defensive back was four days out from the first game of his fifth and final season, an eventual 21-12 win over San Diego State. His time on Montlake, it seemed, was steadily coming to a close. This is where he spent countless fall Saturdays as a kid, routinely stopping at Dick’s Drive-In for a burger and a strawberry shake before heading to Husky Stadium. It’s where he roamed tailgating lots on rivalry weekends, toting footballs and side-stepping grills before Apple Cup collisions. It’s where he grew up. It’s where he became a father. And now, it was almost over.
In an interview, Glenn was asked about the legacy he intended to leave at Washington.
“I want to leave my mark here. I’ve been here for a long time,” he said with a widening grin. “After this year, there’ll be no more (Tyrone) Willingham recruits from back in my freshman year. So I’ve got to end this thing off right and go out there and give it everything I have.”
Even then, Justin Glenn (the subject) had been at Washington (the setting) for a long time.
But, it turns out, he had a whole lot more to give.
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On Jan. 29, 2020, Justin Glenn leaned forward in his chair at the University of Washington, with a purple block “W” printed on his chest. Nearly eight years later, he’s still here. Only now, he’s serving as the Huskies’ director of recruiting — a role devised specifically by new UW head coach Jimmy Lake.
In December, Lake and Co. signed 23 commits — assembling the Pac-12’s premier recruiting class, according to 247Sports. The Huskies could add to that haul in the cycle’s second signing day on Wednesday. Looking ahead, the 2021 class — perhaps the state of Washington’s best in recent memory — also looms. And last month, Lake tabbed Glenn to lead those recruiting efforts.
But what, specifically, does a director of recruiting do?
For one, he oversees recruits’ visits to UW. He sets the itinerary. He organizes campus and facility tours. He schedules academic meetings. He oversees Built For Life program presentations. For official visits, he may reserve dinner atop the Space Needle and water taxis to ferry recruits to brunch at Salty’s on Alki Beach as well.
It’s Glenn’s job, essentially, to ensure that recruits understand every little element that this university and city offers — that they each have “a five-star visit.” That when they leave, it’s not for long.
“That’s one of the things that I always try to explain to recruits, and I’m crystal clear about,” Glenn said last week, sitting in athletic director Jen Cohen’s game suite inside Husky Stadium. “Everybody has cool stuff these days, but guess what? What’s going to make Washington, Washington, is not a 72,000-seat stadium that overlooks the lake. Now, I’m not saying we’re not going to show that stuff off. That stuff is awesome. Because you get a kid from Texas who has never been to Seattle and you bring them up here into the lounge and they’re overlooking this and they’re like, ‘Wow.’ They have no idea, because you don’t know what you don’t know.
“But ultimately it’s the people here that are going to create that experience for you and set this place apart.”
Those people, by the way, comprise another piece of Glenn’s position. He oversees UW’s recruiting department, which consists of a handful of full-time staffers — on-campus liaisons, academics onboarding and admissions staff, marketing and graphics staff, etc. — as well as roughly 25 student interns every year. Those interns are separated into two categories: scouting and operations (or office staff).
The scouting interns, who Glenn lovingly calls “the grinders,” sift through “thousands and thousands of emails and film links” — producing video cutups, reports and offer trackers to be forwarded to the full-time staff. Glenn said that “it’s kind of managing the film process and then filtering it down to, ‘OK, these guys need to be seen by the coaches.’ So there’s definitely a method to the madness.”
Once Lake succeeded Chris Petersen as head coach, he and Glenn also solidified UW’s recruiting footprint — which Glenn defined as “the west coast, east to Texas. And we’ll spot recruit certain areas.” — and identified regional recruiting zones for each of UW’s assistant coaches. When said coaches hit the road, visiting recruits and high schools across the country, it’s Glenn’s responsibility to coordinate those travel itineraries as well.
In short, Glenn may have said it best: he’s here — he’s still here — to maintain the method that controls the madness.
And, in that sense, he’s uniquely suited for the role.
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In his five seasons as a player at UW, Glenn had two head coaches, four position coaches and two defensive coordinators. He was immersed in instability, forced to dutifully adapt. He also broke his leg during an overtime loss at Notre Dame in his redshirt freshman season. And, not long after, his son Julian was born.
“With my mindset, I was in this for something bigger than myself once Julian came into my life,” Glenn said. “I wasn’t out with the boys partying on Friday night. I was warming up milk and feeding my son.
“But those relationships that I had with the (UW) coaches were awesome. It just kind of made me hungry and understand that no matter what happens, as long as you work hard and stay focused on the task at hand, you could be alright.”
Glenn has hardly stopped working since. The 5-foot-11, 206-pound defensive back recorded 152 tackles and three interceptions in five seasons at UW, developing into a starting safety and special teams stalwart. Following a short stint with the Kansas City Chiefs, he returned to Washington and volunteered on Steve Sarkisian’s staff in 2013. When Petersen took over the following season, he didn’t initially have a spot for Glenn. The Husky alum instead was named defensive backs coach at the College of Idaho, where he worked for several weeks … before Petersen called back and offered him the modest role of “program assistant.”
“It probably took me 20 minutes to pack up my stuff and hop in that car to make the seven-hour drive back from Caldwell (Idaho),” Glenn said with a laugh.
Glenn (the subject) and Washington (the setting) have been reunited ever since. In the last six years, he has held the title of program assistant, assistant director of player personnel, director of high school relations, director of player development and director of recruiting. As a player and a staff member, he has occupied a plethora of positions under four different UW head coaches. While the subject and setting have been constants, just about everything else has changed.
And, as a result, Glenn may understand this program as well as anybody in the building.
“I think I have one of the most unique perspectives of Husky football,” Glenn said. “I’ve seen so much since my first year (as a player) in 2008 when we didn’t win a game, to 2016 when we were in the Peach Bowl and the playoffs and the complete transformation from coaches and the culture change and people coming in, people coming out.
“To me, I just want to be here to give back to the university that gave so much to me. So that, deep down, has truly been the reason why I have continued to work as hard as I have and done everything that I can to give back to this place and give back to these kids.”
Last week, Glenn joked that Julian — who’s 10 now, and an avid UW football fan — “wants me to work here forever.” And he might just get his wish.
“The reason why I didn’t want to take a full dive into coaching once I kind of got going in this direction, is just because I want to be here at UW, and I know how coaching is,” Glenn explained. “I know the nature of the business now pretty well, and guys are one place one year and then two years later they’re moving to Texas or Florida. My family’s here. My son is here. This is home for me.”
It’s not just Julian, either. Glenn’s girlfriend is in Seattle. His parents, brother and sister are in Seattle. His alma mater is in Seattle.
In other words, Glenn’s life is in Seattle. And if he’s leaving, it’s not for long.
“I don’t have a reason to leave,” Glenn said, when asked if he’s ever been close to taking another job. “Every time I go on vacation, I’m there for a week, and four days in I’m ready to get back home.
“I can’t put a number on how long I plan on being here, but I plan on being here a long time.”
To be fair, Justin Glenn has already been here for a long time. And, same as ever, the goal is to make his mark.