Larry Tripplett: On the Flip Side

Washington took a chance on a defensive lineman from Westchester High School who was considered too short for Pac-10 football back in 1997. Neither USC nor UCLA were willing to gamble on this LA kid, so he found himself heading north on I-5 far away from the big city.

Now, Larry Tripplett is an All-American candidate and anchors a defense that still has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season.

Everybody who knows Larry is aware of the fact he is very proud of his Los Angeles upbringing.

"Born and raised, love it, can't wait to get back there," says Tripplett.

"I was raised in big cities, the fast life, it's just the Hollywood lifestyle. That is what I am used to. I'm used to having 15 freeways, and seeing a whole bunch of cars, seeing beaches, sunshine, beautiful women. That is the lifestyle I am used to. I was born and raised on that. I took it for granted while I was down there."

How did Mr. Hollywood ever survive his transition to the Great Northwest?

"It was an adjustment period, of course. I went from big-time city LA to Seattle, which is still a major city, don't get me wrong, but it's not nearly what LA is, which is a good thing. It is a little slower pace up here," said Tripplett.

Against his better judgment, Larry admitted that he did like a thing or two about his new surroundings.

"The first thing that got me when I came up here was everybody was smiling. It got to the point – you know how you just walk and see people and they smile at you and you smile back – that doesn't happen as much in LA as it does up here. People are real friendly up here, kind of laid back. I don't know if it's the coffee or what."

Husky fans are very familiar with that famous Tripplett smile but, apparently, Larry needed a crash course in order to perfect it.

"I had to learn, man. The first couple of weeks I was here, my cheeks were all sore, it was ridiculous – smiling everywhere you go."

Too much Mr. Nice Guy? Larry tends to agree.

"I think there is an image that sometimes I carry that onto the football field, and that's NOT the case. Man, I am telling you, if people just knew what was in my mind when I am on that football field, they wouldn't even believe the image they are seeing right now," said Tripplett with a grin.

Larry was hesitant to share what exactly goes through his mind when he lines up waiting to bust through the offensive line after the ball is snapped.

"I'm thinking about … (pause) … I'm trying to be a wild dawg, trying to rip these guys apart, trying to hurt them – not hurt them and end their career – but I am trying to make sure they feel it. I want to hear that THUMP of a quarterback once I hit him. I want to hear the air come out of his chest when I hit him. I like that."

Tripplett, now a senior, remembers well his early days in the program and what it took to instill that nastiness in him. Specifically, Olin Kreutz – who definitely did not greet him with the famous Seattle smile.

"They whooped my behind! They really taught me something when I was a freshman. It was right before the Arizona State game and Olin had an ankle sprain, but he was going to play through the game anyway. That alone taught me something right then – that you play no matter what."

"Olin called me over and he said, ‘I don't care what you do, you are going hard against me every play, we are going to be banging.' We must have fought that whole practice. He had a sore ankle, and I know that it was hurting. And he kept telling me, ‘No, you go hard, you go hard every play!'"

"And we were just banging. The most physical practice I ever had as a freshman was going against Olin, and he ended up balling that game. Olin was just choking their star D-tackle and throwing him to the ground. Olin put him out of the game. Those guys really showed me a whole lot. I learned a whole lot from them."

It's hard to fathom but there was a time - the age of nine to be exact - that this nasty nose tackle that now relishes in punishing opposing quarterbacks was once intimidated out of singing in his own church choir.

"I did some singing when I was a little kid," admits Tripplett. "I was so shy when I would go up there. I would get embarrassed a little bit. One time, this girl told me I couldn't sing. She was just playing with me, but I was so shy and embarrassed at the time, that I didn't go back."

Thankfully, his singing career went out the window and Larry has found a way to perform in front of 72,500 fans.

So what does Tripplett like to do away from the football field? "I just hang out with my girlfriend, just spend time with her." Rumor has it that Mr. Hollywood can also be found watching endless reruns of the Cosby Show, Martin, and the Simpsons. "I could watch those all day, every day," confessed Tripplett.

So much for life in the fast lane. Don't tell him, but maybe, just maybe, Larry is losing a bit of his big-city glamour.

"I am learning a whole lot of this ‘northwest' stuff up here, like kayaking, camping, and fishing. A city boy like me! Me and the D-line, we go fishing," said Tripplett.

A city boy can't be expected to know survival techniques while roughing it at a nearby lake. The thought of purchasing a fishing license before going fishing never even crossed Larry's mind.

"We were out there kickin' it, relaxing, throwing the fish in. Me and the whole D-line, we are all city boys, so we don't know how to fish. We found this lake and went fishing. The next thing you know, we saw this big truck drive up and a ranger hopped out. He asked us, ‘Do you guys have fishing licenses?' What? A fishing license? One of my buddies whispered, ‘Yah, we are supposed to have licenses.'"

Apparently time spent at the beach didn't quite prepare these city boys to deal with the savvy game wardens found lurking around the lake, but Tripplett still attempted to make a quick save.

"We told the ranger, ‘These aren't our poles, Sir.' We kind of had them propped up in the lake. He asked us, ‘Well, whose poles are they?' He ended up giving us tickets when we couldn't talk our way out of it."

When he's not out casting for trout, just look for the big wakes on Lake Washington around the Montlake Cut or in the Arboretum just southeast of the University of Washington campus. You just may spot Larry propelling himself through the water with his best double-paddle stroke. "I squeeze into a kayak. They have to get the BIG one for me. I've been in a double and by myself. It's cool."

Larry probably has a little more "northwest" in him than he cares to admit. When Tripp finally makes his return to hometown LA with a big smile and fishing pole in hand, maybe his family and friends won't recognize Mr. Hollywood after all. Top Stories