Nov. 15, 2008
By Jeff Bechthold
In years ending in an odd number, that game is usually the Apple Cup, against cross-state rival Washington State. The stakes of that game are already apparent to each and every player.
In even-numbered years, like 2008, the final home game of the year generally comes against some other Pac-10 rival and, while the added cachet that the Apple Cup provides isn't there, it's the game of a lifetime for a significant number of players wearing the purple and gold.
This year, that group of players numbers 19. They're the Washington seniors and today, they'll run out of the iconic Husky Stadium tunnel for their final time as players.
They are: punter Jared Ballman, offensive guard Casey Bulyca, cornerback Byron Davenport, defensive back Desmond Davis, cornerback Mesphin Forrester, center Juan Garcia, tight end Michael Gottlieb, safety Darin Harris, wide receiver Charles Hawkins, defensive tackle Johnie Kirton, fullback Luke Kravitz, long snapper Robert Lukevich, defensive tackle Jovon O'Connor, placekicker Ryan Perkins, linebacker Chris Stevens, linebacker Trenton Tuiasosopo, offensive guard Jordan White-Frisbee, tight end Walt Winter and wide receiver Chancellor Young.
There's no glossing over the fact that the last few seasons of Husky football have been a struggle in terms of wins and losses.
No one is more aware of that than those 19 seniors who have invested more blood, sweat and tears into the last four or five (even six) years than anyone else.
Along with hours of practice, weight lifting, conditioning, film study and the myriad other tasks assigned to the college football player, some of these seniors have sacrificed more than time and effort.
Garcia, the Huskies' lone sixth-year player, has overcome not one, but three devastating injuries, any one of which might have ended his career on its own. Today, he'll be making his 35th consecutive start at center. Perkins, who booted a career-high four field goals (in four attempts) in last week's game vs. Arizona State, is forgoing a possible fifth season next year as the result of a knee injury suffered a few spring games ago, one that will not only prematurely end his career, but may affect him the rest of his life.
Surgery to a damaged knee ended Bulyca's career earlier this season. Davenport has never made it onto the field this year due to injury. A concussion has severely truncated Harris' senior season while numerous foot injuries have hampered White-Frisbee over the last five years.
That's just the start of the list. And, no doubt, any given college program could provide a similar one.
The point isn't that these players should be pitied for the sacrifices they've made and the blood they've spilled. After all, there are certainly rewards for membership in the team -- not the least of which is a college scholarship for most of them. And, of course, no one is forcing anyone to play football.
The point is that these seniors are deserving of the respect of every fan who claims the Huskies. While the results haven't come as they had in many prior years in Montlake, their effort and dedication is worthy of one last round of applause from the Husky faithful today.
Just as much as any who have ever worn the colors of the University of Washington, these 19 young men are true Dawgs, and that still means a lot.