Gilbertson will toughen this team up

Deep into a recent conversation with former Husky fullback Darius Turner, the topic turned toward the current state of Husky football. Before long, he was impassionedly speaking his mind and expressing his frustration of how far Husky football has fallen in recent years.

His words were exactly what I have heard from past players several times over. His words echoed an eerie verbatim.

However, what made this conversation different was that Turner granted me permission to quote him directly.

Before going into detail, I want to emphasize that at no time did Turner seem directly bitter toward former coach Rick Neuheisel. In fact, Turner stated how warmly Neuheisel treated him in the handful of times that they crossed paths.

But this does not diminish the frustration that seethes under the surface for many Husky alums that I've spoken with, including the former Husky fullback, who starred on the national championship team.

"I have a hard time watching the games anymore", says Turner. "Sometimes I can't … I literally mean that I can't… I think I first saw a serious decline probably around the time of the Miami game two or three years ago… Losing 65-7 like that… It's like you're watching a family member getting beaten up."

"Our name is a bit blemished right now," he continued. "Back when I was being recruited (out of Southern California), being a Dawg was the thing to be. It had a certain swagger, had a certain ring to it."

Turner thinks something is missing right now. "(When I played) it was important to play by the rules and be disciplined… But also, to be a good team you need some players that have a bit of "thug" in them, a little bit of street. Some guys who have had a hard life, and didn't mind fighting to get something done… We played not to be rich, but to win. We worked out together, and we were close, literally like a family. I'm talking about groups of 20-30 guys, not little cliques, but 20-30 guys, working out together and hanging out together. Beno (Bryant), Napoleon (Kaufman) and I were like brothers."

Turner continued. "I remember after we lost at home to UCLA, in a game that cost us the national championship. The Bruins were making (whimpering noises) in the tunnel toward us, instead of our usually barking. That's how the whole Pac-10 is looking at us right now."

Eleven years after that UCLA loss, Darius Tuner was sitting in his living room with his wife and some friends watching Miami humiliate Washington on national TV in November of 2001.

"Toward the end I stood up and said, `well I can tell you this much, the Huskies are going to win some game tonight'… Then I played one of the Rose Bowl tapes", he says with a hearty laugh.

Turner also related an interesting story about his nephew, Reggie Bush of USC. Bush was a top UW target at running back and many thought that Neuheisel's recruiting prowess would put the Huskies squarely in the hunt.

"When he was going to take his trip there (to Seattle) I told him, you go talk to Gilby… Gilby's a guy I will go to bat for anytime, anywhere. He won't B.S. you. Ask any player who played for him, when Gilby called a play, you had confidence it would work-- because he called it. If he asked me to be his running back coach, I would quit my job and go be the coach, just because he asked me to."

When Bush returned from the Seattle recruiting trip, he indicated to Turner that he hadn't much enjoyed his trip. Soon after he committed to USC.

"So I called up Gilby and asked him what happened?" said Turner. "He told me, ‘I don't know . . . I didn't get to spend more than five minutes with him. Rick (Neuheisel) was with him the whole time.'"

In speaking more about Gilbertson, Turner concluded, "he's been put in a really tough situation... We're too one-dimensional. We don't have enough athletes. I think it is primarily recruiting. In the old days, they would hit Texas, would hit LA. We don't do that anymore. No offense to the state of Washington, but there just isn't enough high school talent there by itself. Not enough to contend on a national scale. But we used to get a lot of the big time talent out of LA… Now we're just a school that has a picturesque stadium by a pretty lake. Somewhere along the line the recruiting stopped. But we should never get to the point of being mediocre."

"It'll take Gilby about three years to get it done," says Turner resolutely. "But he willl get it done."

Three years is a long time to wait. So apparently, there will be more scenarios of watching family members getting beaten up, so to speak.
Note: After the Indiana game I wrote an article that was, in part, a tongue in cheek account of how my Dad was to be credited for the Huskies' Rose Bowl season when he won the 5th quarter raffles… And conversely, how he was to blame for the loss of UW's 22-game winning streak, when he misplaced the "Billy Joe Hobert T-shirt".

Following that article, someone sent me a book with an attached post-it note. They flagged a certain section of the book that cited an amazingly similar example to illustrate something called an "Omnipotence Error". The author had gone through his own anguish, seeing his own favorite college football team lose a bowl game, and yet literally thinking his actions to blame.

I read the book cover to cover, and enjoyed it immensely. I wanted to print that particularly `a propos excerpt, but was unable to reach the author in time. But I recommend it for fellow Husky fans if we are to endure a tough season, or if real life problems are weighing you down, or someone you know. For such a succinct book, the content gets very deep. I recommend checking out the website,
Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories