Oct. 13, 2011
NOTE: The 520 bridge will close in both directions at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday (after the UW-Colorado game).
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - If Devin Aguilar looks or points into the Husky Stadium seats, to the sky or to the east toward his native Denver following a catch on Saturday, he will likely be thinking of Kyree Owens.
The Huskies' wide receiver from the often dead-end streets of Montbello in west Denver enters Saturday's 12:30 p.m. game against his native Colorado (ROOT Sports television, Washington IMG College radio and here on GoHuskies.com with another live game chat) with 15 catches, is averaging almost 20 yards per reception and has two touchdowns, as many as he had all last year. The second score was a leaping, twisting grab of a pass thrown behind him in the win at Utah Oct. 1 that has Washington 4-1 and 2-0 in the Pac-12's North division entering this weekend.
And he's become a role model to his younger half brother Kyree, who is living in Montbello with Aguilar's mother Kimberly Goodlow.
Aguilar, who turns 23 next weekend, has already has walked in graduation in June after just three full academic years by maximizing his course loads each recent summer. He has a 2.83 grade point average in American Ethic studies.
Asked how important it is that he sets a positive example for Kyree on how to get out of Montbello and thrive, Aguilar said, "It's everything."
"He feeds off me and my energy," he added. "He listens to me. I feel like he's got more discipline by listening to me, and he's still having fun as he is playing football."
That's for a Pop Warner team in west Denver. Aguilar there last weekend during Washington's bye, cheering on his younger brother and protégé in one of his final Pop Warner football games before he enters high school.
He also went home to mom, who raised Aguilar when he was an infant by herself and later remarried.
Aguilar knows of his biological father, but has never met him.
"It's irrelevant. I don't really speak of it," he said. "It's all right, though."
His mother and brother have been to four of Aguilar's five games so far this senior season. They will be in Husky Stadium again Saturday, roaring for their number 9 in purple against their home-state Buffs.
"It's just like when I was in high school, thinking `Wow. This went by fast.' It's the same thing, the same phase that I am going through right now," Aguilar said, thinking about what he'll do after his senior season ends and wondering whether a professional team will call.
"Now, there's just more at stake."
Aguilar was an all-state point guard at Denver's Mullen High, the Denver Post's Most Valuable Player of the Colorado Class 5A high school state basketball tournament in 2006. Huskies basketball coach Lorenzo Romar thinks the 6-foot, 195-pound Aguilar could have played for him.
Aguilar would have liked to play for the Buffaloes, after he was the Rocky Mountain News' Colorado high school football player of the year in 2007.
"I would have liked to have an offer by them, but I wasn't offered by CU at the time," Aguilar said last week. "So I looked elsewhere outside Colorado, which I wanted to get away from, anyway."
Here's why: The Montbello section of Denver had 30,000 residents in the most recent survey by homespoint2.com. The real estate and neighborhood listing service rates the likelihood of crime in areas it surveys. Its national average score for crime threat is 100. Montbello had a 213.
The risk of murder there was rated 246. Property crime, 218. Automotive theft was 365 - more than 3½ times the average risk for neighborhoods across the country.
Tyrone Willingham called Aguilar at his home in this neighborhood in 2006, and then-assistant coach Bob Simmons recruited Aguilar out of it to UW. Aguilar jumped at the chance to move west and join the Huskies, who had a year earlier recruited some blue-chip quarterback named Jake Locker. That was enough to convince Aguilar to stick exclusively to football.
"Off the bat, I came here for a (high school) Junior Day, loved it in the summer. Loved the city," Aguilar said of Seattle. "At the time it was Coach Willingham. He's a great guy, individually. He got me here.
"And Jake was here. There was a lot of buzz on the quarterback. I felt I could get my name out there, more or less. That was part of my decision at the time."
Aguilar played in all 12 games as a freshman in 2008, starting against Oklahoma, Arizona and Notre Dame. But that was the 0-12 season, and Willingham and his staff were gone by year's end.
In came Steve Sarkisian and his energetic, hard-driving staff. Everything Aguilar knew in college football was turned upside down.
And he loved it.
"Personally, I didn't have doubts. I just knew we had to compete and start all over again," he said. "The coaching staff, they brought a spark and energy, which got me motivated as well."
He caught a career-high 42 passes from Locker in 2009, his first in Sarkisian's offense, and made honorable mention All-Pac-10. He had 28 catches and two scores last season, while again splitting punt-returner duties.
He's become so trustworthy on special teams, Sarkisian puts Aguilar back there when he absolutely has to have a safe catch and return of a punt to preserve good field position.
This season, Aguilar has been the man Keith Price has found open for big gains when chaos breaks out in the backfield. Aguilar's average of 19.5 yards per catch leads the Huskies, and much of that average has come on what have become Price's signature plays: Extending them with scrambles.
"Devin has been doing a great job on scramble plays," Price said. "It's his smarts. He knows coverages, and soft spots in coverages."
"I believe our corps is way stronger, and they can't just key in on one person," Aguilar said. "I feel like every game a different receiver is going to ball out just because they can on somebody else. We're all unselfish. We're happy for everyone's success. The games keep going even better like that."
Aguilar takes career totals of 105 catches and nine touchdowns into Saturday's game against his native Colorado.
It's light years past his nightmare freshman season of 2008. Was that really just three years ago?
"Yeah, I was talking to Jermaine Kearse, Cort Dennison, a couple other guys of the '07 (recruiting) class, on just what we've been through, where we came from," Aguilar said amid Washington's best start since 2006. "How this is our team that we've built, from nothing into something, into being a very good program within the Pac-12."
QUICK HITS: Sarkisian said freshman WR Kasen Williams "looked the best he's looked running routes" in Thursday's 90-minute practice since he sprained his ankle Oct. 1 at Utah. "So I was very encouraged," Sarkisian said. "I think (Friday) will be good for him not have to be such an intense day for his ankle. Hopefully it feels good Saturday." ... The coach said DT Danny Shelton's sore foot is "much better" and that he expects the 330-plus-pound freshman run-stopper to play against Colorado. ... Thursday is a favorite UW practice day -- and not just because it is the last full one before Saturday games. "It's brownie day!" some giddy Huskies yelled as they ran off the field and into the tunnel where another, weekly batch of homemade baked goods were waiting for them.