Two Former Teammates Comment

Two former teammates of Karl Dorrell, former All-Americans and NFL stars James Washington and Ken Norton, Jr., attended Wednesday's press conference, and talked about Dorrell's hiring. Are they interested in coaching themselves?

If one of the things you wanted to see change with UCLA football was more prominent former UCLA players around the program, you got your wish instantaneously fulfilled Thursday.


Among others at Thursday's press conference announcing Karl Dorrell as UCLA's next football coach were two guys with enough Super Bowl rings to start a jewelry store, James Washington and Ken Norton, Jr.


Washington, the former UCLA All-American defensive back and Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys, was excited about Karl Dorrell being hired as UCLA's next football coach.


"It's a great day in Bruintown," Washington said.  "You can see a lot of the support, and it's a reflection of the support for Karl, as a coach, a player and as a person. You have to think this is a great move forward for UCLA."


Washington talked about the issue of Dorrell being a bit of a groundbreaker as a Black college head coach: "I don't think you should really weigh the difference of race. You should get the best person who is capable for the job. When Dan Guerrero set out, he said he wanted a particular person that's a part of the family. He had a shopping list that he was looking for.  I think Karl Dorrell kind of fit that shopping list. A person that's part of this place, that's home bred, that wants to be here, and understands the tradition of the USC rivalry. But I think UCLA has always been about making change, and making a difference. I was fortunate to get my degree from here. When you come back, you see so many types of people. It's a melting pot. And that's what you see here today. The academic side was not afraid to step up. Guerrero was not afraid to step out a little bit and be different. And that's what it's always been about here at UCLA."


Would it be a new era where more former players show their presence in the program?  Washington said: "What's been the situation here is that you want to be able to have alumni close to the program. As one, you want to be able to call the coach and not offend the coach, or feel like you're a threat to the coach.  Personally, I had a good relationship with Coach Toledo. I've done a lot of mentoring with some of the young players and I hope it helped out with some problems this year.  Being able to have one of your own, the guy who has been in the grind with you, who has done the double days with you, you have a better communication with him."


Washington has spent quite a bit of time around the program this season, from the time practice began back in August. "I have a situation where I work with ESPN radio, and I have the Pac-10 countdown. But I was trying to get back in the flow of a team, spending a lot of time here, and doing a lot of mentoring with some particular athletes I've helped out off the field, and trying to get them focused."


Washington made it pretty clear he'd be interested in an assistant coaching position. "Definitely. I'm interested in being an assistant coach, whether it be on offense or the defensive side. I'm truly interested in putting my name in the hat and hopefully some things have worked out well for me. I haven't spoken with Karl. He's been pretty busy. It's been a whirlwind. But I've made him aware that when the time comes I'd like to have an opportunity to talk to him."


He explained why he keeps coming back to the school where he got his start. "I come back because I'm a true Bruin. Everything I've accomplished, Super Bowls and Rose Bowls, athletically, this is where it started. It's home. And it's a networking tool, for everything, socially. This is my base."


Ken Norton Jr., the former UCLA All-American linebacker, who played on those same dominant UCLA teams in the mid-‘80s with Washington and has a little NFL experience himself, also attended the press conference. He looked huge, like he could still be playing in the NFL today.  


Asked about the rumors in the press and on message boards regarding his possible interest in an assistant coaching position, Norton said, "I am absolutely interested. Listening to Karl talk I feel the same way about UCLA."


Norton referred to Dorrell's story about how former UCLA head coach Terry Donahue saw coaching potential in Dorrell. "I had the same conversations with coach (Terry) Donahue over the years as Karl did, about having coaching in you, the same passion for UCLA, and the same passion for the players. I really don't think they understand what it truly means to be a Bruin and the tradition behind it. I am very interested in working with Karl to help restore that tradition and to get back to where we are supposed to be. And take care of that team across town."


Norton talked about his departure from the 49ers.  "In regard to my leaving San Francisco, Donahue was the general manager up there at that time. He had a hand in helping me to the door. At the same time, he has always told me I have coaching in my future. It was funny listening to Karl talk today because I've had that same conversation, so I'm definitely interested in talking to Karl about that."


Asked if he has had any opportunity to speak with Dorrell or if Dorrell has approached him regarding coaching, he said, "No. Not at all."



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