Open Letter to the Freshman Class

After the loss to Arizona you freshmen are no doubt feeling despondent. This season has gone horribly awry. Given Washington's tradition of great football, it is like a freakish nightmare. This season is like being strapped to a dentist chair waiting for the root canal to be finished while Neil Diamond songs are playing on high volume from the complimentary headphones.

What has made this season so tough has been the fact that there has been nothing positive to enjoy. No peaks and valleys - just one big valley. Just a team with shattered confidence and a bleak outlook toward each approaching game.

It would have been nice to look to senior leadership, but it is largely missing. Some of it is due to the senior class being decimated by injury and attrition. But you freshmen have been lacking when it comes to role models. One of the seniors on offense probably shouldn't even be here.

When he was a freshman he got into a shouting match with a teammate during practice; he subsequently stormed off the practice field and urinated into the teammate's locker. After that, he took off and temporarily quit the team. Some of the coaches wanted him gone. But our former coach was hoping the young man would mature and blossom into a star. That hasn't happened. Nor has the player provided much inspiration or leadership to the team, or to you freshmen.

A second example of poor leadership is from a starter on this year's defense. Just moments after the clock ran out against Arizona last Saturday, the Huskies trudged off the field with another humiliating loss in the books. A certain starter on defense walked right past me on the way to the tunnel. He was joking with a Wildcat player and laughing heartily like they were at a pub and enjoying a couple of beers.

My eyes followed him all the way into the tunnel. His demeanor didn't reflect an iota of frustration. I immediately scanned some of the other faces; it was fairly easy to see which Huskies were hurting and who could care less. There were plenty examples of both.

There was something else, however, from the Arizona game that you freshmen need to be aware of. Three former players were inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame. They were all first team All-Americans. They were running back Napoleon Kaufman, offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy and placekicker Jeff Jaeger. They played on this same field as you. Kaufman and Kennedy were part of a national championship team and Jaeger held an NCAA record that lasted for 20 years. They were part of an era when the players were incredibly tight. They worked out religiously together, viewed each other as brothers. They went through a rugged experience of being at Washington.

The regimented lifestyle forged them into great players. Their teams won plenty of games and went to Rose Bowls. Those past Husky players also stayed in Seattle each summer to work out with each other. They pushed each other to become stronger, faster and better players.

You freshmen have the opportunity to bond in the same way. It is your class that is going through the fire right now. But this horrible season can be used as motivation to get better. In time it can be a positive force. None of you want to go through a season like this again. It isn't worth it. But it is your class that can lead the Washington Huskies in a return to glory.

Three years from now, you can be known as the class that brought Washington back.

This coming Saturday, the fifth-ranked California Bears are coming to Husky Stadium. When the game is about to kickoff, look across the field and spot opposing coach Jeff Tedford. The word is quietly out that the University of Washington is preparing to open up the vault in an effort to bring him to Seattle.

Anything can happen in the search for a new coach. But consider this game against Cal to be an audition of sorts. Because by next month, Jeff Tedford may very well become your new head coach.

Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories