For senior linebacker Jamaun Willis and senior free safety Wondame Davis, it will be their first time they'll have run through the tunnels as starters for the opening game of the season.
Willis is a 6-3 240-pound senior from Compton, California who has made one other start in his career, against Oregon in Eugene last year. This one will be much more special.
"It's an opener. I'm really looking forward to it," said Willis of Saturday.
He'll be the quarterback of the defense from his "MIKE" linebacker position, where he is responsible for calling out the signals, getting the defense lined up correctly, and stuffing the holes in front of him.
"I look at myself as the leader. I make the checks and make sure we're all on the same page. We have to be synchronized. As far as assignments are concerned, we have a lot more new stuff in. The old stuff is second nature to us now so we can do a lot. Everybody here knows what they're doing, more than at any time since I've been here," said Willis.
It would be easy for Willis to get overwhelmed with emotion when he takes the field for the first time, but he's already been over the scenario in his mind.
"Basically you have to make sure mentally that you are prepared. You have to know your assignments cold so you can let your athletic ability and aggressiveness go free. It has to be just controlled rage," said Willis.
"There should be a lot less big plays against us this year in my opinion because there should be fewer mistakes. The theme of this defense is ‘trust'. Trust the person is going to be where they're supposed to be, and I'll be where I'm supposed to be."
Willis believes that this defense is strong and right on track. "We still have a couple of days of work that we need, and a few more mental days to make things more sharp and crisp, but we'll ready for Michigan."
"Definitely ready for Michigan."
FS Wondame Davis (pictured left) will start against Michigan
Wondame Davis started at cornerback as a redshirt freshman in 1998 when Jermain Smith went down with an injury. That was the afternoon that Oregon State's Jonathan Smith, then a walk-on redshirt freshman, entered the game and threw for nearly 500 yards for the Beavers. It was an inauspicious start, one that Davis hopes to wipe from the books.
He has won the free safety job now after moving back to defense after a season at wide receiver. He'll be right next to Willis as they run through the tunnel for their final home and season openers of their careers.
"It's exciting. I just have to keep my head on right and be ready to come out and do my job the best that I can. If I do that everything should pretty much fall into place," said Davis in his usual relaxed manner.
"Our whole team really should be fine as long as handle our responsibilities. We know what to do."
His time on the offensive side of the ball helped Davis in coverage this fall, providing him with the edge over the other safeties competing for the job. "I've been able to learn a lot of things from receivers, and how to read their breaks. Defensive backs interact almost every play with receivers so the cross over between the two positions is helpful," said Davis.
"There are a lot of tips you pick up."
Davis is undersized for a safety and often he is required to take down ball carriers that outweigh him by 30 or 40 pounds. There is no fear, however, from the Colorado native. "Tackling is a will. If you want to bring somebody down, they'll go down. Size doesn't make a big difference, as long as you have that will, that edge."
"We have a 230-pound running back that we hit every day out there. That gets us ready for pretty much anything," said Davis of teammate Rich Alexis.
Now that he knows he'll spend his final season at Washington as a safety, he's pleased with his fate. "I enjoy playing back there. You see the field so well and it's a great opportunity to make a lot of plays. You can make a lot of tackles and make some interceptions."
"Being a senior will help me get through the nerves on Saturday. We'll be ready."
Four days and counting for the two seniors that have been looking forward to this day for five years. The ABC spotlight will be brightly burning in Husky Stadium.
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