Texas Barbeque, Husky-style

The Pacific Northwest is one of the few places in the United States this time of year where the temperatures remain pleasantly in the upper 70's. There's no worry about humidity or 100-degree heat like there is in so many other places across the country.

Nowhere is this more true than in the Midwest, where the heat and humidity combine to make for one uncomfortable day after another. So when Washington linebacker Ben Mahdavi looked on the Husky schedule and saw the team's game at Ann Arbor, Michigan on August 31, he knew he had to somehow prepare his body for the elements.

Mahdavi weighed his options, and decided to go to Kevin Ware, the senior tight end from Texas, for help. "I talked to him about working out somewhere hot, and he said I could come to Texas," Mahdavi told Dawgman.com. "His parents were more than happy to have us stay at his house."

So in mid-summer, the two headed down to Tomball, Texas - about ten minutes from the Ware household in the city of Spring - to condition with a trainer named Dennis Fey, whom Ware had worked with each of the last five summers. "I remember when I was a little kid in high school and I saw some guys go and do the program," said Ware. "I thought, ‘Hey this is good stuff'. This gets you football ready. It really works on your strength and conditioning."

At Fey's camp, which included NFL players Ted Johnson of the New England Patriots and Dan Neal of the Denver Broncos, the athletes were forced to go through a variety of drills in temperatures that reached the mid-90s. They worked on improving speed by using cones. They pulled tires on strings to better their burst. They even flipped over 800-pound tires for 25 yards, down and back. All of the drills were intended to push the athletes to their absolute physical limit. "(Fey) has different kind of preparation techniques," said Mahdavi. "He basically just breaks your body down as much as possible, and overtrained to where it couldn't get any worse."

In the end, the experience was quite beneficial for both of the seniors. "The humidity was pretty extreme," said Mahdavi. "That's the reason I went down there was to see how my body would react to the humidity, and I felt fine. I was only there two weeks so I obviously didn't get a chance to get completely used to it. The heat and humidity wasn't as shocking as I thought, so now when we go to Michigan I'll be thinking that I know what it was like in Texas and it was ten times worse there."

Ware thinks his hard work-ethic this summer will pay off in his final season as a Husky. "I worked hard this summer to prepare for this, and I think I did everything to the best of my ability to get out there and perform for this season," he said.

Currently both Mahdavi and Ware are listed as starters at their respective positions, but each have players behind them nipping at their heals. Mahdavi is being pushed by the emergence of sophomore Joe Lobendahn, while Ware has to keep playing well to stay ahead of red-shirt freshman Joe Toledo on the depth chart.

Each are excited for their final seasons, and know the Huskies have a chance to be special in 2002. "I'm the main guy now, so I've got to fill out the main guy's shoes," Ware said of his role with the team. "It's just the mindset of having to go out there and give it your all. This may be the last season I play football.

"We've got to go out there and start with Michigan to get 12 wins under our belt."

Mahdavi is excited to bring leadership to the defense, especially now that Larry Tripplett and Omare Lowe have moved on to careers in the National Football League. "I'm happy to take that role," said Mahdavi. "I felt like I took that role last year even though Larry was a senior. Last year being my second year as a starter, I took it upon myself to be a leader. This year being my third year as a starter, it's a good feeling because I'm more than happy to take the responsibility with anything that happens to the defense."

Neither Mahdavi or Ware will forget the experience in Texas. It helped them prepare for the upcoming season both mentally and physically. It made them more accustomed to the heat they will likely face in the season opener at Michigan. And lastly, it made them appreciate the 70-degree summer days in Seattle just a bit more.

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