Aug. 25, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Oh, yeah, Desmond Trufant has confidence.
He was born with it, actually. It seems one can't live in his football-filled family without it.
Yet that swagger vanished for a spell last season, when the Huskies' starting cornerback admittedly lost track of the finer points to his job.
Every position needs confidence, but perhaps none more than cornerback.
You try going outside, one-on-one against some of the other team's fastest, tallest, most-athletic guys and staying with them. Then try to knock down or even intercept a pass - all without touching that slippery opponent, of course.
It's one of the toughest positions in sports in which to excel. The odds and penalty rules are constantly against a cornerback.
Bravado is his equalizer.
"Oh, it's the ultimate," Washington defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin said this week of swagger. "You are out there on an island, and somebody is going to get you. It's going to happen. It's how fast can you forget and move on to next play, and confidence plays a big factor in that. If you have confidence, you know that's not going to happen sometime soon again."
Trufant has seized back his confidence like it was a pass fluttering aimlessly to his sideline entering his third year as a UW starter. He enters next weekend's opener against Eastern Washington as the outside pillar to Washington's defense.
When you see the Huskies in far more press, man-to-man coverage this season than they've used in years, it will be because Trufant and - once he returns from a high ankle sprain - senior Quinton Richardson are confident and skilled enough to do it.
Trufant arrived at UW from Tacoma, Wash., in 2009. That's when Richardson, benched at the time at the other corner spot, looked at Trufant and saw a confident freshman starter. Where did that come from?
From him listening to two older brothers who are now cornerbacks in the NFL: Marcus, with the Seattle Seahawks, and Isaiah of the Philadelphia Eagles.
"Just seeing Desmond come in with that confidence, telling himself `next play' if he got beat, that was a real eye-opener for me," Richardson said.
Richardson returned an interception for a touchdown last November in the home finale against UCLA. Those kinds of plays tend to do wonders for a guy's confidence. This one helped spark the program-turning, four-game winning streak that ended with Washington's first bowl win in nine years.
This month, Trufant has been shutting down his own teammates, with thudding plays. Huskies are still talking about the shoulder slam the 6-foot, 184-pound Trufant put into Austin Seferian-Jenkins' chest during a mid-August practice. It was about the only time since the 6-6, 257-pound tight end enrolled in late March that anyone has been able to separate Seferian-Jenkins from a reception.
Wednesday, Trufant belted another camp star, Kevin Smith, to break up a catch at the sideline.
"He's doing the little things that enable him to make big plays," Martin says. "He's confident to know where he's supposed to be and what he's supposed to do when he's there. Now the game slows down for him. And with his athleticism, a slow game? You see the benefits."
The Huskies are glad it's them seeing those - and not that other school at the other end of the state.
Desmond grew up a Washington State fan while following his oldest brother Marcus when he was a Cougar. So, yes, he considered WSU.
"But then when it was time to make the decision, I thought this was the best place for me," Desmond said. "Being close to home, having my family close whenever I needed anything- and the coaching staff. Why wouldn't I want to play for Coach Sark and this coaching staff? They've won championships."
Trufant started nine games and broke up eight passes as a true freshman in 2009.
But his confidence dipped along with his performance as a sophomore early last season. He now says he was neglecting the "little things" and got easily distracted from his task at hand.
That's where brother Marcus, a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Seahawks in the 2007 season, knows best.
"He's told me, `Get rid of the distractions. Don't care who's at the game, how good you are. Don't try to live up to the name. Just go out, play hard and have fun,'" Desmond said.
"Whenever I've done that, I've been successful. And whenever I worried about those types of things, that wasn't good. Those mistakes were necessary to get where I am now."
Where he is now is a darn good place.
Trufant is so driven to excel, it galled him that new starting safety Sean Parker had five interceptions to his four entering these final days of preseason camp. He knows because Coach Martin keeps daily tallies on everything that happens in each practice, to stoke the defensive backs' competitiveness and confidence.
Now Trufant's prodigious swagger has become a whipping stick.
"He's always been a tremendous competitor, first guy on the field last guy off it. He works at it," Sarkisian said. "What I've noticed this year is he really believes he is that good. He's playing with the utmost confidence right now. Not in a bad way, in a very good way.
"He's got the swagger that you need to go play at corner right now. It's not fake. It's not false. It's genuine. He's making the plays every opportunity he gets. And if he happens to not make the play, he's already forgotten it and it's on to that next play.
"He's part of the reason our team has grown, because of his mentality."
QUICK HITS: Sarkisian is spending the next couple days simulating in detail how the end of game weeks will go for players this season. The Huskies held a closed practice Thursday that Sarkisian said was a "walkthrough of our walkthrough" - the closed practices the team has on fall Fridays, the day before games. On this Friday, the team will rehearse everything it will do each game day, from team meals to pregame position meetings to putting on uniforms, doing pregame warm-ups and going right through kickoff time of a "mock game." ... Friday night's annual "Raise the Woof" fan event on the practice field immediately east of Husky Stadium is sold out. ... Saturday's practice, seven days before the opener, will include the first large chunk of game-planning work for Eastern Washington. The Eagles, the defending Football Championship Subdivision national champions, are ranked No. 1 in the FCS preseason poll for 2011.