Coach's Corner

Recruiting is strange, and kind of funny. On the internet, I see people literally jumping for joy about kids committing to the UW that they know nothing about. It's almost like, "I don't care who it is, just give me a name so I can be happy about him being a Dawg." Often times guys will commit that you don't really want to take, so you have to put a positive spin on it. Oh well. That is why you should never believe everything you read about, "how bad a school wanted so and so."

Back to the topic at hand - my own experiences in recruiting. We were recruiting Jason Gesser and I really liked the kid but couldn't offer him a scholarship because we had him rated 3rd or 4th on our board and we were waiting for those above him to visit before we could extend an offer. His mother lived in Kirkland and was having cancer treatments at the UW and if we had pulled the trigger, I really believe he would have been a Husky.

Instead, we were honest and told him the truth and the next weekend he went to Pullman and committed there. He went on to lead them to the Rose Bowl but I don't think he ever beat the Huskies.

Sometimes being totally honest can work against you.

One time we were practicing for the Rose Bowl and this high school coach came up to me and told me about a kid he had at his high school who was being overlooked by the LA schools but really liked the Huskies. I went to our area recruiting coach after practice and he told me that nobody else was recruiting him, so he had dropped him.

A rather lame excuse if you hadn't even watched tape. Shame on us.

I didn't think anything about it until the next day when the high school coach showed up again only this time with tape. I told him I would immediately watch it and if he came back a third time I would give him an answer or at least an evaluation. I watched the tape with the knowledge that the kid had triple jumped over 50 feet and long jumped over 24 feet. Having been a track coach, I realized those distances showed tremendous explosion. I was so impressed I brought in two defensive coaches and told our area guy to go after the kid hard. The next day I offered a little prematurely but it all fell into place in a matter of days. We visited the kid the first weekend after the Rose Bowl and he committed.

He went on to become one of the finest safeties we have ever had, and Tony Parrish is still one of the highest-paid players at his position in the NFL. We recruited him in a week. Sometimes you just get lucky.

One time on a recruiting dinner I was hosting Mike Huard and his wife Peg. Their oldest son Damon was on his official visit and we were dining with my wife while Damon was with the Puyallup kids on our team. We had ordered a bottle of wine and a couple of pops for Mike when this white-haired, distinguished-looking gentleman walked by our table and I proceeded to introduce him to Mike and Peg. Mike stood up to shake the gentleman's hand and asked him if he was the team chaplain or something. The man smiled and said, "No, I'm the school's President". I laughed, Mike turned red, and Peg was embarrassed.

President Gerberding took it well. After all, he had just hired Barbara Hedges and had officially started the beginning of the end. I asked him to join us but he declined.

Lucky me.

Some kids really want to be entertained on their official visit. Because Seattle was my home town, I had a great advantage when it came to making a weekend visit really a lot of fun. I knew many of the little unique things about our city and this one time I had a kid exclusively for two days. There weren't any other recruits in town because I was combining the kid with another trip.

He stopped for an official visit with the Cougars and then came to Seattle for the last of his five stops. He and I had talked on the phone a couple of times and I could tell he was a wild man. I don't mean that in a negative way because so am I. He just liked excitement and flat-out told me if he had the best time in Seattle then he would probably make his decision before he left. The tough thing was that all our coaches were going back out on the road Sunday evening for home visits, so the only one in town was going to be me. We did the usual campus tour but he was interested in communications and specifically broadcasting and Washington didn't offer that major. So I arranged for our on-campus TV studio to make up a Sports Desk-type set and we put him in front of the camera and let him try to be a sportscaster.

Of course I wrote the script for the teleprompter, and as he was reading the made-up telecast the last item was the big news out of Seattle - he was committing to play for the Huskies.

He laughed but said that didn't count but he really appreciated the trick. So we headed out to the Space Needle for lunch and I could tell that he was really excited going up the elevator. After lunch he wanted to go up on the roof. I told him the roof was closed but that we could go on the observation deck right above the restaurant. Again, I could see him light up as we went outside and looked over the edge. I told him about all the people who had jumped off when they first built it in 1962 but how the barbed wire now makes it almost impossible. He was really getting gunned up so I immediately took him to the amusement park and we rode the roller coaster. Then we went right to Husky Stadium and climbed all the way to the top of the stadium stairs on the north side and sat and looked at Mount Rainier and the city skyline.

It was awesome and he turned to me and finally said that he hated heights but that it was the coolest trip he had taken and he committed on the very top row of the stadium. I never did tell him that I too had a fear of heights and the whole thing just scared the heck out of me.

Finally, I remember the recruitment of Dave Hoffman and how he committed. Our recruiting coach had warned me on a number of occasions that Dave came from a real Christian family and that his dad was in fact a Lutheran minister. He was obviously worried that I would drop an F-bomb and we'd lose the kid. I was on my best language behavior and Dave really wanted to go fishing. So I called up a buddy of mine who had a boat out of Edmonds and we got up early Sunday morning before the brunch at Coach James' to try and catch Dave his first salmon.

At 5 am sharp Dave was waiting for me in the lobby so I knew he was really serious. Now all we needed was a fish. We headed out to the south end of Whidbey Island and were using downriggers with hoochies and a dodger. We assigned a rod to Dave, but all of us knew that whatever rod got the fish it belonged to Dave. It was cold but sunny and sure enough the thing I wanted to hear most was finally shouted, "Fish on". Dave jumped into action and after about a twenty minute fight, hauled in a 12 pound blackmouth. The good Christian kid turned to me and high-fived and screamed out, "F----------ing A, I'm a Husky!"

I can still remember Dave walking onto the plane with a fresh salmon wrapped in newspaper tucked under his arm. It will always remain one of my favorite memories of recruiting and he was certainly one of my all-time favorite Huskies.
Click here for Part One of Coach Baird's Recruiting Tales.


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