Aug. 17, 2006
SEATTLE - Early in the fall camp, Husky head coach Tyrone Willingham singled out tight end Michael Gottlieb as a player that had made great strides and was in line, at least at the time, to be the UW's starter at his position.
Quite high praise from the coach for a player who came to the UW as a walk-on from Mercer Island High and who enters the season not having caught a pass in a Husky uniform.
Gottlieb, who earned a scholarship after his first year at Washington in 2004, played on special teams last year, seeing action for the first time against Notre Dame. Now, however, it looks like he could be a fixture in a Husky offense that is likely to get a lot of use from its tight ends.
Locked in a battle for playing time with junior Robert Lewis and sophomore Johnie Kirton, as well as redshirt freshman Tim Williams and junior Tim Harris, Gottlieb has already accomplished a lot. Like most players who come to the UW without a scholarship, he had other opportunities to play football, but opted to not give up on his dream.
"Coming out of high school, as a guy growing up in the area, coming to the UW was my goal and my dream," Gottlieb said Thursday. "I didn't have an offer here, though I did have offers from other schools in the Northwest. When it came down to it, it was really my goal and desire to be in the place I wanted to be."
Even as a walk-on, Gottlieb never perceived that his status within the team was any different than the rest of the squad and the coaches.
"The coaches didn't offer me a scholarship, but they presented an opportunity," he explained. "They embraced me as if I was a guy who came in on scholarship, so I felt like they would take care from me. I figured I'd get a fair shake."
His status also didn't lower Gottlieb's own hopes for himself.
"I came in here with the same expectations as anyone else, regardless of if I had a scholarship," he said. "The coaches said they expected me to be a big-time player and that's what I expected as well. That's all I could ask for. I saw my goals and, whether or not I had a scholarship, I wanted to be a top player. That's the whole idea."
Now that he is, at the very least, in the mix as a possible tight end starter, there's more at stake.
"There's definitely some pressure," Gottlieb admitted. "It's easy to see there's a definite race going on between all the tight ends. You can't slip up because there are other guys who are playing really well. But, I still go out and just try to play as well as I can. I try to prepare hard and work hard. My approach is the same."
Husky fall football camp continued Thursday afternoon with a single practice. After the final two-a-day session of the week Friday, the Huskies will hold two split-squad sessions on Saturday.