Senior Spotlight: TE Kevin Ware

The Tight End branch of the Husky football family tree has its share of storied careers. Rod Jones, Aaron Pierce, Ernie Conwell, Mark Bruener, Jeremy Brigham, Cameron Cleeland, and now 1st round pick Jerramy Stevens. It's more of a pipeline than a branch, really. This season, another Washington tight end has designs on continuing that run.

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Kevin Ware is out to make sure his name becomes synonymous with the many successful tight ends that have walked down the tunnel through the years. Replacing a starter is no small task, however replacing an NFL first rounder doesn't make it any easier.

After being a back up for the better part of the past three seasons, the 6'3" 255lbs senior out of Spring, Texas, will finally become the go-to guy at tight end for his last season as a Husky.

Along with Stevens' early departure to the NFL, graduation took both John Westra and Joe Collier as well, leaving Ware as the only veteran of this otherwise very young tight end group. Ware is joined by red-shirt freshmen Joe Toledo and Andy Heater.

As the elder statesmen of this group, Ware does not take this responsibility lightly. He was often seen going over techniques with his younger teammates this spring.

"I feel I am ready to step in and be a leader on this team and be someone the guys can look up to as we go out there and give 110, if not 120%," said Ware. "We're going to carry on the tight end tradition with the young guys."

Ware has not that been much of an offensive threat thus far in his career, but that can be measured to the presence of an All-American tight end. His hands have been somewhat suspect but this spring offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson singled him out as having a great spring.

"Kevin has shown us that he can be a real threat as a receiver in this offense. He has caught everything this spring, his weight is down to a good number, and he's one of the strongest kids on our team," said Gilbertson, who also is the position coach for the tight ends.

"He can run, block extremely well, and he's experienced. When we lost Jerramy last year to injury, Kevin stepped up and did a nice job. We're expecting some big things out of Kevin this year. He's a big, strong guy and we need him to play the way that he's capable."

Coaches have always praised his blocking skills and that cannot be measured by any stat. Since he was a true freshman in 1999, Ware has been able to handle defensive ends or linebackers that are coming at his quarterback or are in the way of an onrushing ball carrier.

It was because of his excellent blocking skills mixed with his athleticism that led to coaches pondering a move from his normal tight end position to a shot on the offensive line at guard before last season. Needless to say, it was not something Ware was pleased with.

"I came to this school to play tight end and that was where I intended to play. I had to become stronger and faster so that I could show the coaches that I could play tight end ."

He's done that, and he is now the undisputed starter heading into fall.

Fact of the matter is, the starting job is not something new to Ware. When Stevens went down with a foot injury and missed the majority of last season, Ware took his turn at the starting role and was doing a great job until a well-publicized off-the-field incident put a damper on his entire season and his accomplishments.

Kevin was charged with assaulting a police officer while the officer tried to break up an altercation that involved Ware. That resulted in him being suspended indefinitely from the team by Head Coach Rick Neuheisel. The repercussions of that included sitting home and missing the Holiday Bowl against some of his friends at the University of Texas.

"It is something I deeply regret," said Ware about the incident. "I feel it was something that could have been prevented. I want to put it all behind me now."

While he was first charged with a felony, the charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and Ware was tasked with 240 hours of community service.

"I'm going to keep myself straight so that I don't jeopardize what I am blessed with to be here," said Ware.

Husky fans wait in anticipation for this young man's first real shot to shine in the spotlight. He hopes to culminate years of frustration and "could have beens" into an eventful senior season. Ware doesn't plan on going out with a whimper, and is confident that he won't.

"Personally, I think I've had an awesome spring," Ware said. "I'm blocking better, running better routes and catching the ball better. I think I can go in there and adequately fill Jerramy's shoes, if not better."

Those are big shoes, for sure.

Ware has made more news off the field than on it recently, but expect that to change. If this spring was a precursor of things to come, Kevin Ware's shoes should be plenty big enough as they chew up large chunks of field turf in search of endzones and linebackers.

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