DJ Returns to Sidelines for LSU Game

The year was 1993 when Don James stepped down as head coach at Washington. Affectionately known as DJ, he resigned in protest because the Washington administration, led by President, Bill Gerberding, Assistant President Jim Collier, and Athletic Director Barbara Hedges, refused to defend coach James and his football program against the NCAA by accepting a two-year bowl ban and other sanctions.

Coach James had told them he would not, and could not accept a two-year penalty, because neither he nor any of his coaches had committed any major infractions. To accept two years of sanctions would be unfair to his players. They immediately took him at his word and accepted the two years, knowing full well that it would trigger his resignation.

It was the darkest day in Husky Football history.

I was coaching the wide receivers at the time, and they included players like Joe Kralik, (one of my all-time favorite kids to coach) Dave Janoski, Eric Bjornson, Jason Shelley, Theron Hill, and a skinny freshman named Fred Coleman. There were also a number of walk-ons including another DJ. His name was DJ McCarthy.

I had no idea how this DJ had ended up at Washington. He was too short. He was quick, but not fast. He had walked on for the 1991 National Championship season. He had arrived via the junior college route, having played the previous year at Long Beach City College. His home town was Boca Raton, Florida.

So how does a walk-on kid from Florida end up becoming a Husky? How did he even get into school? How was he covering the out-of –state tuition, much less the other expenses of attending a college in the opposite corner of America from his home? Nobody knew but we had an open door policy for any UW student who was enrolled and could show a background for the sport. He was one of probably 50 plus walk-ons we had then when our teams were well over 140 kids.

The rules had changed that year, and the recruiting coordinator had to have an on-the-field coaching assignment. Having been both a high school and junior college head coach, Coach James figured I could coach any position and immediately moved me into the first spot that had opened up - wide receivers. As an old linebacker, I was a fish out of water, but I inherited a fun group of kids.

I had told all my receivers that because we had Napoleon Kaufman, the players who blocked the best down field would be given heavy consideration for playing time. DJ McCarthy took me up on it and literally threw his body around trying to get himself on the field after a couple of years on the scout team. He drove me nuts but I couldn't deny his grit and determination, and somehow found him a spot on the travel team.

Everyone on the offensive staff that year wanted me to play the true freshman, Fred Coleman, but I was determined to red-shirt Fred because I felt it was the right thing to do for his development. I was right because following his fifth year at Washington, Fred went into the NFL and won a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots. Fred could have played that year but what the heck, I had DJ. Why beat up a freshman?

Somehow and some way, DJ McCarthy ended up playing that year and even caught a touchdown pass that won us a hard-fought game with California. He actually caught a number of touchdown passes that year and was a leader for me with the younger receivers, especially Shelley and Hill, who were kids I was always suspending or disciplining on a weekly basis.

I had always encouraged DJ to become a coach someday and he followed me up on it. He has worked his way through football coaching; first in the high school ranks, then at the JC level, then as an intern with the Oakland Raiders before moving on to Central Florida. It was at UCF where, as their receivers coach, he worked with Brandon Marshall who is now with the Denver Broncos.

DJ left Central Florida and joined on with Chris Tormey at Nevada, where he worked with none other than Nate Burleson. DJ and the Wolf Pack returned to the sidelines of Husky Stadium and left a winner in one of the bigger upsets in the history of Husky football. He then jumped from Nevada to UCLA and was on the sidelines when the Bruins upset USC a few years ago. He then moved from UCLA to LSU, where he has coached their wide receivers for the last three seasons, including a National Championship.

DJ will be coming back to Seattle when Washington hosts LSU this coming Saturday. He will be bringing with him an all-SEC receiver named Brandon LaFell, who led that conference in receiving last year, catching 63 balls for eight touchdowns and close to 1000 yards. He also has a 6-foot-5 receiver named Terrance Toliver and a 6-foot-3, 205-pound freshman receiver in Rueben Randle, considered by many to be the top kid in the top recruiting class in America.

DJ recruited and signed six kids out of that number-one class. He is a bulldog recruiter and returns to Husky Stadium where, believe it or not, he has lost only one game and won 19 (18 as a player and 1 as a coach). DJ McCarthy knows how to win in Husky Stadium and has great memories of his time in Seattle. He met his wife Trisha there when she was a gymnast for the Huskies. They now have three boys, ages nine, five, and three. I am proud to have been a mentor in his career and we have stayed in close contact all these years.

If you're in Husky Stadium on Saturday and want to know who DJ McCarthy is, he will probably be the one with his cap on backwards. He is a proud Husky, but on that day I will wish him no luck. Heck he is coming in with the 11th ranked team in the country, not to mention the top recruiting class. He doesn't need any luck.


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