Dec. 4, 2002
Perhaps no Husky has seen their fortunes rise and fall along with the team's this season as much as tailback Rich Alexis. Washington rode Alexis to a 3-1 start, the junior tailback averaging 23 carries and 95 yards per game, with five touchdowns to his credit. As the Huskies stumbled to just one win in their next five games, however, Alexis amassed just 32 carries for 68 yards in all five games combined, reaching the endzone just once. Alexis sat out the UCLA game with an injury, and returned to score two touchdowns in the Huskies' tone-setting 41-29 win over Oregon State. The following week, the Coral Springs, Fla., native had one of the best games of his career in a 42-14 win at Oregon, carrying 30 times for 122 yards and a touchdown to help Washington achieve the second leg of the Northwest Championship. Alexis closed the season with 72 yards and a touchdown - his 11th of the season - on 18 carries against Washington State as the Huskies completed one of the most remarkable turnarounds in school history. With one season to go, Alexis has already had enough highlights to fill a career, including his memorable dash down the sidelines to help beat Miami in 2000, and an 86-yard TD run at Arizona State that same season. The junior, who now ranks fifth all-time at Washington with 25 career touchdowns, sat down with GoHuskies.com to reflect on the highs and lows of an outstanding career.
GoHuskies.com: How emotional was the win against Washington State?
Rich Alexis: "It feels really good, especially this year with the season that we were having. The team struggled, and I struggled personally as well, but going there and beating them in Pullman, while they were the No. 3-ranked team? That was great. I still believe we're a great team, we just started off slow in the beginning. It was a great victory."
GH: There's been a lot of talk about the scene on the field after the Apple Cup. Did you think you were potentially in danger?
Alexis: "There was a lot of stuff flying out there, but I've got the attitude that I'm from Miami. That type of thing doesn't really scare me at all. I've seen worse things than that."
GH: You said you've been through worse in Miami; are these stories you can divulge?
Alexis: "What we saw at Pullman, bad as it was, was nothing at all compared to what goes on the streets of Miami. There are a lot of scarier things on the street down there."
GH: Your season's been a real roller-coaster. How has the adversity you've faced helped you evolve as a player and person?
Alexis: "I've had to learn a lot of patience. I really had to keep believing in myself, because everybody was getting down on me - the media, fans, etc. You've just got to believe in yourself and believe that you can do it. I've been set back with a couple of injuries - high ankle problems and rib problems - but I just got healthy a little bit the past couple of weeks, and it's been showing. I've been running cool, so I felt good."
GH: A week before the Apple Cup, there was a chance that Washington might not go to a bowl game, and now it appears that the lowest-seeded bowl the UW could possibly go to is the Silicon Valley Bowl. That's got to be a big relief.
Alexis: "Right now, we're just happy. Any bowl we can get into is a bonus to the season we've been having this year. We want to send the seniors out right, and get into a bowl game. I don't care what bowl game; we just want to get to one."
GH: No preference, eh? Not even a trip to Vegas for Christmas sways your opinion? I mean, we're talking Vegas!
Alexis: "Oh yeah, I've never been to Vegas and it's on Christmas Day and then I would get to leave and go home, get a couple of days off. I wouldn't mind."
GH: Is it kind of bittersweet to have some media and fans jumping back on the bandwagon after the hard times the team has been through this season?
Alexis: "It is kind of bittersweet because you don't expect that from your own fans; to be on the bandwagon and then jump off. Now they want to jump back on. That's not fair at all; everything can't go perfect. We struggled a little bit this year, but people have got to understand we're not the team from before, we're going to write our own legacy. We can't be the Marques Tuiasasopo team. We're just going to play hard and hopefully next season will be a better season, but it's bittersweet to have your fans jump on and then jump off."
GH: You say you'll be better next year. Are you already looking ahead to the future, or are you still basking in the glow of the last three victories?
Alexis: "For me personally, it's kind of both. I'm happy with the last three games, and getting to this bowl game, but I know this off season we have to work real hard - harder than we did before - because I don't want to go through another season like this ever again. I'm going to be a senior, and I saw how the seniors handled it this year. I want to have a great senior year and go to a great bowl. I want to be in a position like Washington State was, playing for the Rose Bowl."
GH: What did you learn from watching this year's seniors deal with adversity?
Alexis: "They dealt with it the best way they can. I look up to them and see how they handle things. They come to practice everyday and work hard, try to keep the team together. There were a lot of things going on, but they were holding it together."
GH: Has this experience taught you how to be a leader next season?
Alexis: "I don't know if I will be a better leader, but I know my actions will show my teammates that I'm out here to work really hard, and we're trying to go somewhere. We're not trying to have our season start out real slow in the Pac-10; we just want to work real hard and get to a great bowl."
GH: It's been bantered about in the media that the Huskies might be preseason Pac-10 favorites next year. What do you think of that?
Alexis: "I've heard that. It's certainly out there - the thought that we're going to be preseason this or that, but we're just going to take it in stride. We're going to come out here and work real hard, and if they do put us up there we're going to work real hard to keep it."
GoHuskies.com correspondent Steve Hitchcock contributed to this report.