Four Dawgs sign deals

Despite a historic drought, four Washington Huskies from the class of 2003 have signed free-agent contracts to play football in the NFL. For the first time since 1936 a football player from the University of Washington was not drafted. However, these four, and perhaps at least one more (Kai Ellis) will do their best to uphold the Huskies' proud pro tradition.

John Anderson, UW's record-setting placekicker, signed a contract Thursday with the Chicago Bears after rumors he might sign an earlier deal with the Cleveland Browns. The details of that contract were not available. Anderson, a four-year starter from Boynton Beach, Florida, became Washington's second all-time leading scorer with 329 points and his 61 career field goals were both right behind Jeff Jaeger. John's 2002 season total of 108 points was the fourth-highest total in UW history, and he holds the distinction of owning 6 of the school's 9 field goals recorded at 50 yards or longer. He is tied for the longest kick, a 56-yarder against UCLA in Los Angeles as a true freshman. He'll be joining Michigan's Julius Curry and Florida State's Patrick Hughes as part of the Bears' free agent signing class.

Ben Mahdavi, who made his mark at Montlake as a walk-on from the University of Utah and defied odds by earning a scholarship in his third year in the program, signed a free agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons Tuesday. The 6-2, 245-pound linebacker from Mercer Island, Washington, did double duty for the Dawgs, also long-snapping for four years. His 100 tackles in 2002 tied him for the team lead in that category. A very durable player who started every game in 2001 and 2002, Ben was a 2-time All Pac-10 Honorable mention selection. Mahdavi was in the Atlanta free agent pool that also included UCLA's Mike Saffer, Georgia's Terrence Edwards, Arkansas' Fred Talley and Georgia Tech's Ricardo Wimbush.

Up to the day he stepped on campus, there was arguably no bigger in-state recruit than Kennedy's Paul Arnold. And when the running back took a kickoff return back 100 yards against Air Force and an off-tackle run 80 yards in the 1999 Apple Cup, stardom seemed assured. But then some physical ailments caused Arnold to take a couple of steps back and also resulted in a position change. The change fit, as the 6-1, 200-pound Arnold earned All Pac-10 Honorable Mention honors as a fourth-year senior. His 4.36 40 time at Washington's pro-timing day should have earned Arnold a late-draft pick, but the Colts took their chances and were able to snap up the versatile Arnold as a free agent. Indianapolis also tendered free agent contracts to Calvin Carlyle of Oregon State, USC's Darrell Rideaux, Purdue's Montrell Lowe and receiver Carl Morris of Harvard.

Another fourth-year senior who was All Pac-10 honorable mention in 2002, Spring Texas' Kevin Ware appeared to be a shoe-in for the draft. But Steve Spurrier and the Washington Redskins didn't hesitate to snag Ware as a free agent, putting him in some nice company along with other players like Iowa's Brad Banks and USC's Sultan McCullough. The 6-2, 255-pound Ware came up big in 2002, catching 42 passes for 463 yards, second and third all-time respectively for single-season receptions and yardage by a tight end, but he's just as known for his physical style of play and blocking abilities as he is for his hands and his ability to find space downfield. Top Stories