Coach's Corner

Mason Foster has been the best Husky football player this whole season. He is the one true shining star on this football team. He brings his lunchbox to work every day and he is a warrior. He is a beast and he just might be one of the greatest linebackers ever to play at Washington.

In the Huskies' devastating 41-0 loss to Stanford last weekend he was arguably the best player on the field. Stanford regularly sent two players at him, yet he was always around the ball. Mason had 18 tackles - as well as running down kickoffs and punts - and played hard from start to finish. He always does. He is the leading tackler in the Pac-10 and one of the leading tacklers in the nation.

He already has 100 tackles on the season with four games left to play. He is certain to be the Huskies' only obvious All-Conference player as well as an NFL draft choice in April.

I got to watch Rick Redman play linebacker for the Huskies back in the early sixties and then watched Michael Jackson in the late seventies, and both went on to NFL careers. They were the best I'd seen in terms of covering ground in the old days. Foster, of course, is playing in a different era, but he is bigger and faster than either of them ever was. Redman was my position role model when I was in high school and Jackson of course went on to play for the Seahawks so I followed them throughout their careers.

Mason has never gotten to play with the same kind of surrounding cast as those two did. Those guys played on Rose Bowl teams, like Dave Hoffmann, James Clifford and Chico Fraley did, except Mason can also play outside linebacker like players named Fred Small, Jaime Fields, and Brett Collins, and he's just as good at either spot. Mason Foster just wants to play on any bowl team and I promise you he still thinks his team can win three of their last four games and qualify to do so.

I think Mason Foster is comparable to the great Joe Kelly, who played for us during the Orange Bowl era. I've always thought that Joe was the best linebacker who ever played for Washington. Joe was a first round pick for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1986 and he had an unbelievable combination of speed and instincts. Foster has those same qualities but may not go in the first round simply because of the teams he's played on. I'm certain Mason will be drafted and some NFL team is going to get a great player and an even better person.

When I coached the linebackers at Washington I had the privilege of working kids like with John Fiala, Ink Aleaga, Jerry Jensen and Lester Towns. All were really good linebackers and all went on to the NFL, and both John and Lester earned Super Bowl rings. None of them had the natural raw ability that Mason has.

What they all have in common is a mentality for playing the position. Just like Donald Butler did, who was drafted last year by the San Diego Chargers. Athletically, Foster is much like Kelly and the late Marquis Cooper, another ex-Husky 'backer who was a third round pick. Mason is a bigger version of all of them with the possible exception of Towns, although Mason is taller and faster than Lester ever was.

Linebackers are their own breed. They can be made better but most of time they come ready made. They simply like to hit and are almost always great leaders. They have to be because of the nature of the position. They are also thinkers and like to figure out where the ball is going and try to beat the ballcarrier to the spot, make the sure tackle and get the ball out. They simply have a nose for the football but at the same time have to know what everyone on the defense is doing. Linebackers and safeties are usually the most vocal kids on the team. They have to make all the adjustments.

Mason Foster does all that and more for Washington, and along with Cort Dennison and Nate Williams represent the Huskies' defensive brain trust. He is a naturally humble person with a deep commitment to team. He will graduate and he deserves any and all the accolades that he will receive. He is a very, very good player on a poor football team.

Following Husky football for the past eight years or so has not been a lot of fun, but watching Mason Foster develop and mature and to see him always fighting and playing hard has been my own little thrill. He is what Husky defense is all about. He brings it every day and is a leader in every way. He has been the Huskies' MVP on defense in almost every game he has played and will certainly join his old teammate Donald Butler as a professional next year.

Foster, who hails from Seaside High School in California, actually played quarterback in high school and was lightly recruited, despite being named the Monterey County Player of the Year. Anyone who follows Husky defense knew immediately that the Huskies had recruited a great one the minute he stepped on campus.

I was there for that first day of practice when he reported as a true freshman and from that moment on I knew he was special. Of course he had to play immediately, and was one of seven true freshmen to play that year. He has gotten better every year and now simply plays at a different level than most of his teammates or opponents.

He is really good against the run, he is really good in coverage, and he might be the best pass rusher on the team. I think any of you who are really into defense should do yourself a favor and just put your binoculars on Mason Foster and watch him for a whole half. You'll see what I mean. He is always moving to the football. He is in incredible shape and it's hard to ever find him loafing. He is the real deal, and as far as I'm concerned my favorite Husky for the past decade. He has always played like a champion and has always respected the game.

I've seen him knock a guy's head off, then help him up. I've seen him strip out more balls than anyone ever at Washington and he's always playing hard no matter what the score is. I watched the replay of last weekend's pounding by Stanford and he was playing just as hard at the end as the start.

Mason's parents regularly drive up from California to watch him and will no doubt be there when he graduates. He is what being a Husky defender is all about. I'll give him my highest compliment: He is a War Daddy, plain and simple.

He's certainly one of the best to ever play the position here, and in the wake of such a dismal performance I wanted to find that ray of excellence. I found it wearing number 40. Top Stories