Huskies Close Book on Sarkisian 101

The Husky Awards banquet put the finishing touches on the first installment of the Steve Sarkisian era Wednesday night. It was like all awards banquets in all sports; lots of nice things said about the kids and lots of thank yous. In this case the good feelings coming off their two impressive victories to end the season were obvious.

The players honored were all deserving and it was simply a positive ending to a positive beginning.

This football program took the first steps back to being competitive for a conference championship. They played hard in every game. Hard hitting and tough, hard-nosed running returned to Husky football. The defense gradually got better as the year went on and that steady progress leads you to believe that they will only get better next year too.

The offense showed how working together and being consistent in the running game will eventually mean dominant performances in the fourth quarter. It took them the whole season to finally put someone away, but they proved they could both run and throw and that there are some big-time playmakers on this team.

Chris Polk was named the Offensive Player of the Year after the best seasonal performance ever by a Husky freshman running back. Donald Butler was named the best defensive player, as well as one of the four seasonal captains. He was clearly the leader on this team and finished second in the conference in tackles. He, as much as any player on the team bought, into the change in coaching and led this season of resurgence. He will be missed more than any of the seniors just because of his attitude and toughness. He was a War Daddy the whole year and held his teammates accountable the whole season.

Erik Folk, after going 18 for 21 on field goals - including the game winner against USC - was named Special Teams Player of the Year.

The most significant award given in this program is the Guy Flaherty Award, given annually to the player who is the most inspirational player to his teammates. It is named for the first recipient, who played for the Huskies over a 100 years ago in 1906-07. It is also one of the few awards that are based on a vote by the team. This year's winner was Jake Locker, and that speaks well for his relationship to his teammates. Like Butler and his relationship with the defense, Locker was clearly the leader of the offense and was also one of the seasonal captains, along with center Ryan Tolar and defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.

Daniel also received the L.Walt Rising Award that annually goes to the best defensive lineman on the team. Considering his all-time record of 30 sacks and his relentless drive and quiet leadership, it was pretty obvious who had won this award.

The John P. Angel Award that goes to the best offensive lineman, and that went to Senio Kelemete. This one was a bit of a surprise, because Kelemete is only a sophomore and entered the program on the defensive side of the ball.

Strength coach Ivan Lewis presented three strength awards, and Te'o-Nesheim, Tolar, and scout teamer Tobias Togi won those. Someone should have given Lewis an award for returning conditioning and strength to this team. He had a major hand in transforming the Huskies into one that could play for a full 60 minutes and to be strong enough to compete against anyone they played. He starts up the winter conditioning program as soon as they all return from the holidays and there is no doubt he has the attention of the team. He has made one of the most significant behind the scenes contributions of any coach in the program.

The whole team was honored for their continued community service and Paul Homer, who aspires to have a future in medicine, was given the 101 Club Academic Achievement Award. Safety Jason Wells, who is an inspiration all by himself, won the Husky Fever 12th Man award, given by the coaches to the player whose sportsmanship, attitude, and continuous effort were an inspiration to them and the team. It was more than a coincidence that the Husky defense immediately got better once Wells was healthy enough to play in the UCLA game. He was such a leader on the back end of the defense that it freed up Nate Williams because Wells was back there to run the show.

Desmond Trufant was the outstanding freshman MVP, Keith Price was the offensive scout team player MVP, and Tim Tucker was the defensive scout team MVP. Cole Sager, a walk-on from Burlington-Edison was honored as the special teams scout player MVP and Jermaine Kearse received the Apple Cup Big Play award. Mason Foster won the Tough Husky award and Victor Aiyewa got the Big Hit Award for a knockout shot in the Notre Dame game, when he literally staggered an Irish player on a kickoff. The hit was replayed for the audience and the Notre Dame kid was clearly in La-La land, running to the wrong end of the field before going to the ND bench.

The funniest moment in the program involved linebacker coach Mike Cox who let everyone know, he appreciated the chants of "One more year" at the final game and that he has full intentions of coming back, even though his son later told him the chant wasn't for him.

Banquets are really for the seniors, and each of the 15 upperclassmen was honored with a plaque and his helmet. There is no question this group of Huskies has been to hell and back for this program. It was good to see them all smiling and feeling good about having the perseverance and determination to turn this thing around. The ship has indeed been sent in a new direction under its new skipper, Steve Sarkisian, and this night simply put some final touches on the first chapter of hopefully a ten-part best seller. Top Stories