I didn’t grow up in a family that was passionate about sports. My parents are immigrants and couldn’t tell you the first thing about football if their lives depended on it (pops loves him some Russell Sherman tho #12thMan). The teams I love and the traditions I abide by today were of my own choosing, a young child drawn to cool colors and great players. So when I fell in love with Husky football in 2003 or 2004, I had no idea of the history or the prestige of the program, or that it was on the precipice of its darkest era ever.
The stories of Don James weren’t passed down to me like they were for so many fans my age. I learned about James’ watchful eye in the sky, about the Emtmans, the Rose Bowls, the National Championships (s/o the 84 squad) on my own time and volition.
I grew up on Willingham, a name so cursed among UW faithful that many of us refuse to say it even today. I snuck into the student section for nearly every home game the first time I had season tickets; the image of yellow flags streaking across Husky Stadium as Jake Locker threw the ball sky high in celebration against BYU is burned into my memory. We lost to the Cougars, then we lost Locker, and finally, we lost everything. Hope, pride, and the program.
We wandered in the wilderness for some time after that. But deep down, I had an unshakeable and irrational confidence that one day, yes, even these biteless dawgs would be back.
For a long time, that said more about me than it did the state of our program. I am notoriously even-keeled at work and at home and my calm demeanor is rarely shattered. There are some things in life that I am certain will work out in good favor. It took a while to happen (kind of like this post) but eventually, the gods’ good fortunes rained down on Seattle, as Seven Win Steve traded his trips to Joey’s for trips to Nobu, and Chris Petersen strode into town, ready to build with his kind of guys.
And boy, did he build.
The Huskies were awake. For the first time since I was two years old, they were back.
Coach Pete’s tenure at UW gave way to some of the best Huskies of all time: Myles, Azeem, Budda, Dante, Ross, BBK. The list goes on and on. But Coach? He’s an all-timer on an entirely different scale. He took the Huskies to three straight New Years Six bowls, an honor which is shared only by the likes of Saban, Swinney, Stoops, and Meyer over that same time span. He is universally respected by his peers, players, and the media. The greatest compliment I can give him is that I wish I could experience his full Built for Life program for myself; he is as much a molder of men as he is an elite football coach.
We have been so fortunate to have him at UW. I am incredibly sad to see him step down.
My biggest regret with his departure is that he won’t be the one receiving the Gatorade bath and lifting up the national championship trophy when the Huskies inevitably win it all (hello, unshakeable confidence, and yes, I still believe it will happen). I wanted it as much for him as I do for myself and for the school.
Coach Pete, thank you for confirming my unshakeable and irrational confidence in the University of Washington’s place as a national power. Thank you for being the greatest ambassador my university could ask for in a time when much of the world lacks tact and honor. Thank you for doing it with integrity and grace.
They say people never get the flowers while they can still smell them. But this one is for you, Coach.