Coach's Corner

Eight of the 17 seniors set to be honored Thursday came to UW as members of the 2006 signing class: Greg Christine, Cameron Elisara, D'Andre Goodwin, Cody Habben, Matt Houston, Jake Locker., De'Shon Matthews and Ryan Tolar.

They, along with the true seniors from the 2007 class - Victor Aiyewa, Mason Foster, Brandon Huppert, Vonzell McDowell and Nate Williams - will all graduate and leave UW having earned their major from the school of hard knocks.

They will be joined by transfers Dorson Boyce and Austin Sylvester as the recruited Husky seniors who will be playing their last home game this week. There's one other senior - walk-on Pete Follmer, who faces that last time coming out of the Husky tunnel to play a football game, and another senior, Alvin Logan, who unfortunately had to retire from the game due to chronic knee problems.

For those of the 2006 class, it is a bittersweet ending to their last home game in a Husky uniform. Their class was the second real class signed by coach Willingham after he had essentially blown off his first class during the transition between himself and Keith Gilbertson.

There were 22 players committed to sign scholarship papers in February of 2006, and there are seven left. Five others left last year having used up their years of eligibility, including two who have gone on to the NFL in Marcel Reece and Donald Butler. Jason Wells is trying to get into coaching, and Paul Homer is working on medical school. Snapper Danny Morovick is simply out of the game.

That means 10 of the original 22 quit, left, or never actually entered the program. That is an attrition rate of 45 percent, leaving only the strong to survive and especially after winning only 12 games and losing 34 during their careers as Huskies. It's been a long, hard road for these guys but they intend to finish it right.

For the four-year seniors, only Foster should've played. But the other three had to play because the cupboards were so empty partially, due to the terrible class signed in 2005 when Willingham only took 13 kids. Five of those signees either never made it into school or quit shortly thereafter. That means the class in front of them only had eight players, and no real leaders other than Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.

For the five-year players, their first year at Washington they were all red-shirted while preparing a varsity team that went 5-7. Since then they've been on a rollercoaster ride, inside the game, as well as on the scoreboard. They were all here during the worst seasons and have definitely paid their dues.

It seems like just yesterday they opened their UW careers with wins over Syracuse and Boise State to start the 2007 season. The Boise State game might mark one of the best and most forgotten wins of the Tyrone Willingham era. After that win over the Broncos, they started a downward spiral that never really righted itself until the last two games of 2009.

After a good start to their senior season they are now back in the middle of another losing streak. They want to win out. They want to go to a bowl. They want to lead their team to victory.

For offensive linemen Habben and Tolar though, they leave Washington with more than wins and losses - they leave with good friends. They, along with Locker, have lived together off and on all the way through college. They are better than good friends, they are lifelong friends. Bound together by the constant work and struggle it's taken for the past five years, these two linemen have forged a permanent bond.

Tested they have been: Pushed, prodded, punished and pulverized probably all apply. But, Habben and Tolar did it all together. They were two of the best linemen in the state their senior years of high school, with Tolar from Pasco and Habben from Skyline. They have been through a gauntlet of struggles and have both emerged as proud Huskies because of it.

Habben even got benched this season to further compound his college struggle, but they never quit. They never quit on each other and they never quit on the team. They will be introduced as seniors Thursday night and they will play as hard as they can to beat UCLA.

Offensive linemen rarely get noticed unless they do something wrong, and these two seniors have had their share of mistakes but they also have been stalwarts. They have been lunch pail guys, they have been warriors and they have been good teammates. They are true Huskies and will be great fathers and husbands some day and will know they gave their all for the Purple and Gold.

Habben and Tolar are Huskies that have earned their stripes. They have laid a foundation and set the standard for all the kids who are freshmen this year. They know the offensive line has turned the corner in this program and they are a big reason why. It is their leadership that will ensure the future of Husky football.

As in the past, the future of this program lies up front in the lines. When Washington wins another championship it will be because of the guys up front. It will be because of what Cody Habben, Ryan Tolar, and Greg Christine left for the next wave of Husky hogs.

They will leave themselves on the field and in the example they showed to the youngsters. They have been hardened for life and no matter what happens in these last three games these guys will leave as winners.


Dawgman.com Top Stories