By Mason Kelley
Bob Gregory crouched near the 40-yard line. With his hands resting on his knees, the assistant coach watched as Washington’s linebackers worked on bringing down ball carriers.
As he has for the past 27 years, Gregory assessed tackling technique.
In the end zone, Jeff Choate worked with the defensive line, teaching players as he has for the past 22 seasons.
On the other end of the field, Chris Strausser (25 years) and Brent Pease (23 years) handled drills for the offensive line and receivers, respectively.
In the middle of it all, moving from station to station, was head coach Chris Petersen (27 years).
Add up all of the experience on Washington’s staff and this group has been coaching for the better part of two centuries, bringing 193 seasons of knowledge to the Huskies.
They have celebrated wins. They have learned from losses. And, for most of the coaches on staff, they have experienced both together. For Chris Petersen, the combination of camaraderie and knowledge is big part of “what makes it special being here.”
“I think we have the most unbelievable staff that’s out there,” he said. “I don’t know every staff in America, but I know a lot of them and I think this group of people is extremely special.”
From high school to the NFL, their on-the-job training is second to none.
“You always feel like you’ve got someone to go to who has been through the experience,” said offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith, who has been coaching for more than a decade, but remains one of the younger members of the staff.
Working among peers who have already been where Smith is headed makes going to work a daily learning experience.
“Whatever you’re dealing with, someone has been through it before and can give you some advice,” he said.
Not only is there a wealth of knowledge on staff, everyone in the meeting room is encouraged to have a voice. From graduate assistants like D’Andre Goodwin and Gerald Alexander to veterans like Pete Kwiatkowski and Jimmy Lake, input is embraced.
“We have a great culture as a coaching staff, as far as how we work together,” said recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Keith Bhonapha. “It’s really exciting to have that type of knowledge and those sorts of tools at your fingertips.”
This group picked a profession that requires year-round work for the potential payoff of Saturday success. Because of the vast time commitment, Petersen is adamant his assistants are driven by more than winning football games.
“When you do this thing the right way, you’re coaching to a little bit of a higher calling than just the main, end-of-the-day goal being winning on the scoreboard,” Petersen said. “I think there’s got to be something more that comes to it, because of how much time and energy we spend here.
“They’re all on the same page. They’re all in it for the same reasons I am.”
For Chris Petersen, the combination of camaraderie and knowledge is big part of “what makes it special being here.”
Washington’s assistants believe in the blueprint.
“In any great organization, it’s that guy on top,” Gregory said. “I think coach Pete certainly sets the tone, and we all believe 100 percent in what he’s talking about and we just keep echoing his message.”
When Petersen looks at his assistants, he sees a group with the talent to aspire to more impressive titles. Gregory and Pease have both been Division I coordinators, while Lake worked in the NFL.
But this group isn’t working on improving their resumes. They are here because they share a vision.
“Maybe when you get older you have less of an ego, because we’re all about doing this thing the right way,” Gregory said. “We all believe in what coach Pete is talking about. What he wants, we’re all on board.”
For the Huskies this season, the chemistry among the coaches follows a simple concept: One staff, one vision, 193 years of experience.