Petersen is 'OKG' for UW

SEATTLE - Each time Chris Petersen walked by, his smile seemed to grow with every trip down the hall. He'd come back, usually accompanied by his wife Barbara, or one of the numerous Washington staffers in tow, taking care of the undoubtedly long list of details prior to officially taking over as the Huskies' 28th Head Football Coach Monday afternoon.

For someone who would later talk about getting beyond his 'comfort zone' and accepting a new challenge, he looked as content as could possibly be.

Was it the pay raise? Petersen is set to earn $4 million in 2018, finishing off a five-year, $18 million-dollar deal. But word out of Boise State was that there were boosters willing to match whatever Petersen was offered - so it wasn't that.

Was it the occasion? Celebrations are always fun, but when you're dealing with a man who has lived his life in the college football equivalent of Timbuktu, it's clear Petersen would rather focus on more important things. Petersen told the press that he doesn't mind dealing with them and understands it's part of the job - but he's a football coach, first and foremost - and that's what he wants to focus on.

Being a football coach and a teacher.

Well, when you put it that way, Coach Pete…

"I'm excited about this opportunity, this challenge," Petersen said. "We're going to play smart, fast, physical, and unified football - there's no doubt about it. We're going to recruit awesome kids here. We talk about taking young men and turning them into real men. I think there's such a misperception out there about what a real man is. And that's a passion of mine; to really get some guys straight on what a real man looks like and what he does and how he plays and how he conducts himself."

Petersen calls them 'OKG's' - 'Our Kinda Guys'.

After listening to him talk throughout the day, it's rather astonishing Petersen didn't find himself at the doorstep to Husky Stadium sooner.

When Steve Sarkisian left to join USC as their newest head coach Monday, the Huskies were left scrambling. No matter how hard Sarkisian tried to ingratiate himself to the Seattle way of life, there was always a thin veneer of California that he could never quite rub off. And frankly, it always felt like Washington was simply the first stop for a coach who talked about winning one more of everything Don James did but clearly never had any intentions of staying once the Trojans came calling.

Since returning to Los Angeles, Sarkisian has shown everyone exactly how glad he's back home. He never misses a media opportunity, his face front and center and above the fold at all times. He's excited to be back in his old stomping grounds, and why shouldn't he be?

All Washington fans owe Sark an unquestioned debt of gratitude for putting the Huskies back on the map, there's no doubt about that. But Sark's stop at Montlake turned out to be a bit of a cul-de-sac; after coming from USC as a coordinator he gained invaluable on-the-job head coach training that few west coast BCS programs can deliver, then promptly bolted south for his 'dream job'.

Sark helped push Washington's pigskin profile to the point where it could attract things like ESPN's College Game Day, but the on-field product never matched the sizzle. He loved to chat about this and that, about what was going to happen for the program, that the wins and championships were going to come sooner, rather than later - but in the end his win-loss record never rose to the level of his oratory. In fact it wasn't close. To paraphrase the late Coach James, he would have been a 2,000-word underdog if ever matched against a Sarkisian-coached team.

Gastronomically-speaking, Steve Sarkisian was the coaching equivalent of a prime rib from The Keg. You could count on it for consistent quality, always good for a slightly above average dining experience - and every once in a while they'd pleasantly surprise you.

On Monday Washington upgraded to a Porterhouse from the Metropolitan Grill. After all, you don't just luck into two Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year awards. One? Maybe. But two?

It's clear Chris Petersen can coach some football.

His record for excellence can't be disputed - on or off the field. Petersen's .993 APR while at Boise State ranked him second in the country for graduating players. If it is not about striving for perfection and ending up with excellence, it's not on the Petersen menu.

If you can't hack those standards, you aren't OKG.

By that heady measure, Sarkisian was never quite OKG. He was always a good coach. He was a solid recruiter. He was a fine ambassador for the Washington program, and started the process of rebuilding a proud tradition. There was nothing wrong about Sarkisian, frankly. But there just never seemed that much that felt right about his time either. Many times it felt like the program was in the middle of Lake Washington, treading water and unsure where to go.

Ironically, when Sarkisian left the Huskies high and dry a week ago he actually did them a favor. For Petersen, it couldn't have been a better situation. In his eyes it became a win-win-win - at least as of this week. As for the future, who knows how these things will work out.

"They'll get a fabulous coach in (Boise State) and it'll give them a new shot of energy," Petersen said. "I feel very good about that. I didn't want to leave Boise if I thought it would be bad for them or they would take a step backward. So that's where I go back to the timing. It's really good for me and my family and I think it's good for them as well."

Washington Athletic Director Scott Woodward and Senior Associate AD Jennifer Cohen knew it was a great fit the moment they met Petersen. For Woodward it was a conversation he had with Petersen when Boise State and Washington met up in Las Vegas last year. While the Huskies ended up on the losing end that day, Woodward gained some valuable insight into his future hire.

"When you meet him - as soon as you grasp his hand and look him in the eye, you feel like this is a real guy," Woodward said Monday, adding that he was 'blown away' by his first meeting with Petersen. "This is someone I could do a deal with."

Cohen, who accompanied Woodward to Boise on a mission to hammer out a deal with Petersen last Thursday, drew similar conclusions.

"I felt like he was our guy; I felt that from the second he walked in the door," Cohen said. "He's got an edge to him. He knows he's going to have to grind and work harder than anybody else. And that's who we are. That's who the Huskies are. We're tough, we're resilient, and he has that."

Now that Petersen has signed his letter to UW, what kind of guy is he going to recruit to Montlake? Fans see the relative failures of former BSU Head Coaches Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins and wonder if Coach Pete can replicate his remarkable record at college football's highest level. He'll have a lot more ammunition to use when fighting the big boys for those coveted 'Jimmies and Joes', but it doesn't sound like he's going to sacrifice bedrock principles or take shortcuts in his ever-lasting search for OKG's.

"Kids that want to go to school and get a degree from this unbelievable university, that want to do things right, that want to grow," Petersen said when asked to define an OKG. "There's a price to pay for playing in this beautiful stadium. You can't be the normal college student. You just can't. They're going to have to give up things. So there's a certain type of kid we want to come here, that understands this and it's our job as coaches to engrain that into them."

"Any time you want to want to be successful in your life, it's that discipline that helps take you to the next level," added Cohen. "It's really what can make you exceptional. At Washington, it's a key."

Looking out over that beautiful stadium Monday afternoon, it was easy to reflect on just how resilient Husky Nation has been this past decade, hanging tough while the foundation of Washington Football was crumbling beneath their feet.

With new facilities and a new Husky Stadium - tools Woodward said were 'invaluable' in the recruitment of Petersen - the foundation is back on firm footing. It's up to Petersen to follow in James' footsteps and furnish the 'House that Woodward Built' with more hardware. There's plenty of available space.

"This is major college football," Pac-12 Networks Analyst Yogi Roth said Monday afternoon, hours after Petersen's press conference had ended. We were both outside the recruiting lounge, looking east at the Husky Hi-Def screen. It was screaming out in bright lights 'Welcome to The Petersen Era'.

"Look at the stadium," he marveled. "Look at the conference. (Petersen) saw it first-hand. This is big-time."

A big-time hire for a big-time program. As Woodward would say, 'our type of guy and our type of coach'.

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