A Senior Speaks Out

He's been moved, moved from position to position more than once. More than twice, or even three times. Ty Eriks knows about about the understanding of 'team' probably as well, or better, than any of his other Washington teammates, but he's now helping them get up to speed. Sunday, new Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham held a closed-door players' meeting, his first face-to-face contact with his new team.

Eriks knows about Willingham. As a player for O'Dea High School in Seattle, Ty was coveted by both Washington and Stanford, where Willingham was head coach. So when the die was cast with Washington's 2004 coaching staff and Willingham was fired after his third season at Notre Dame, Eriks thought about the idea of playing for Willingham more than once.

"I was recruited by Coach Willingham, and I really liked him a lot back then, so I was hoping that he would get an opportunity to come here," Eriks told Dawgman.com Sunday night after the meeting. "That's what I was hoping for.

"He was a lot different than anyone else I talked to on the phone. He told it straight. He didn't sugar-coat things. Everything he said was clear, concise and to the point."

But Sunday Eriks was able to confront the irony of Willingham as Washington's third head coach in four years head on. "I Committed to UW early, so I never got to meet him face-to-face," said Eriks with a chuckle. But when Willingham walked into the room Sunday night, sense-memory kicked in and Eriks experienced deja-vu.

"Yeah, you could tell, it's hard to put into words," he said when asked about the Willingham 'mystique'. "It was a very exciting feeling for a lot of people. It's exciting just to have a coach now, but to have such a good coach, a renowned coach. Everybody knows about Coach Willingham and that he's a man of his word. You could definitely tell that by the way he walked into the room, by the way he carries himself and by the way he talks. I'm just very excited to get the chance to work with him my senior season.

"I've been around a while, and this is definitely one of the most exciting times for me in terms of opportunity. We've had great coaches in the past and we've done some great things in the past, but I'm happy, confident, and excited about the future and what coach Willingham brings."

For the 6-2, 240-pound rush end, 2004 is ancient history - even if it is still a few weeks away from completion. The team took a week off to rest weary bodies and to study, and then they went right back to a lifting and conditioning regimen they've been accustomed to since high school. But this winter has started off with a bit of a twist.

"The seniors met with Pete (Kaligis) and Steve (Emtman) a week after the Apple Cup," said Eriks. "We talked about the direction we were going and what was happening. We have an off-season training schedule that we have which incorporates conditioning and lifting. As a whole we are doing more team-oriented lifting and more team-oriented conditioning.

"In terms of conditioning and lifting, I have seen a change since the end of the season. We are working toward becoming more of a 'team' team. By that, I mean that when we lift we use groups of no more than four people and we're mixing upperclassmen with lowerclassmen. We're talking about doing other things to become more of a unit."

Back to Sunday's meeting. What was the general feeling Eriks had from his new head coach? "From what I heard tonight, he's a guy that's very organized and he'll be ready. Whatever he does will be best for our team, I'm confident in that. I'm totally excited by what I heard," said Eriks. "Coach Willingham is definitely a guy that is about business. He was clear and consise about what he wanted. What is said in the locker rooom stays in the locker room. That's good, because it builds a trust and leads to more meaningful relationships between teammates. You can't ask for anything more than a tight trust on the team.

"Everything is about winning. That's what it needs to be. It's about winning in the classroom and winning on the football field. And that's what I came here for. I came here to win games and to be the best football player I could be and the best student I could be. That's why I became a Husky. And he's going to do whatever he needs to do to win. It's all focused for the team to succeed and excel in anything they do. It's all about bringing the team upward."

Eriks also said that the team got an opportunity to express their concerns to Willingham from the get-go. "He was well-prepared," said Eriks. "He had a great answer for every concern that we had and we got a lot accomplished. A lot of concerns were dealt with. We're definitely moving in a positive way just from one meeting and it's exciting to think about what we can do with some time together."

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