Aug. 9, 2007
SEATTLE - Ben Ossai is 6-foot-6. He weighs 300 pounds.
But when Ossai, one of the bigger men on the University of Washington campus, sat down in the Husky Stadium stands on Wednesday to watch the Seattle Seahawks' linemen runs through drills, he was amazed.
"They are BIG!" the 20-year-old Huskies offensive tackle said, shaking his dreadlocks from side to side in disbelief.
"They are a lot bigger than I thought. They must go to the gym or something."
Shaun Alexander isn't exactly known as mammoth in the NFL. But after Curtis Shaw saw the 5-foot-11, 228-pound running back up close for the first time Wednesday, Washington's 5-11, 190-pound freshman runner said: "I felt really small.
"I mean, they're big. Shaun, he's HUGE!"
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The Seahawks enjoyed seeing familiar faces.
Seattle coach Mike Holmgren greeted Washington coach Tyrone Willingham at the beginning of practice. Holmgren was on coach Bill Walsh's staff in 1987 in San Francisco, when Walsh asked an ambitious 33-year-old college assistant to become the first intern in the 49ers' program for minority coaches.
"That was an eye-opening experience," Willingham said after the Seahawks left his stadium. "One of the things I take away (from Walsh's program) is not necessary a true football thing: At the heart of success will be management."
So of course he welcomed the Seahawks schooling his rebuilding Huskies on a morning when the UW team would have normally been in a walkthrough practice.
"If you want to be the best, why not watch the best?" Willingham said. "I think we have some young men who aspire to be professionals, and it is good for them to see how they go about their craft."
Willingham and Keith Gilbertson, a Seahawks offensive assistant, exchanged handshakes, smiles and laughs after practice near midfield. Gilbertson went 7-16 as Washington's coach from 2003-2004 -- the same record Willingham has so far in two seasons replacing Gilbertson at UW.
But Willingham hasn't gone 1-10, the record in '04 that doomed Gilbertson with the Huskies. Wednesday was the first time Gilbertson had been inside Husky Stadium since UW fired him after that debacle.
After he was let go, Gilbertson was at the Seahawks headquarters in Kirkland, Wash., rehabilitating a hip injury. He saw Holmgren and asked if he could do any work for him. Holmgren hired Gilbertson as an assistant offensive line coach. This summer, Holmgren has given Gilbertson added responsibilities in developing the passing offense.
Gilbertson was a graduate assistant at Washington under Don James and a Huskies assistant in the 1980s and '90s. He also was head coach at California from 1992-95. He returned to UW as an assistant and then head coach.
"Hey, I had got a lot of good afternoons in this place," Gilbertson said in the middle of the field after practice. "I miss it here."