Dec. 27, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Alameda Ta'amu has a big reason for loving his first visit to Texas.
When the Huskies 6-foot-3, 337-pound senior defensive tackle was at SeaWorld Saturday for the Huskies' team visit there, he got to ride on a roller coaster.
That may not sound like a big deal. But it is huge for Ta'amu.
"SeaWorld I actually fit on the roller coaster rides for the first time in a long time. I think everything in Texas is big," he joked. "It's nice not to be embarrassed in front of a crowd, not to have to be pulled out of line."
Ta'amu will be back in his more common and comfortable place Thursday night: in the middle of Washington's defensive line that is seeking to do what it did 12 months ago.
Ta'amu's dominance of Nebraska's larger blockers last December in San Diego neutralized the Cornhuskers' offense in UW's upset of the Cornhuskers in the Holiday Bowl, the Huskies' first bowl win in 10 seasons.
If he and his defensive line mates do the same against the bigger blockers for Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and high-powered Baylor in Thursday's Alamo Bowl, the Huskies could have consecutive bowl wins for the first time since the 1990 and '91 seasons.
Whatever happens, this is it for Ta'amu for his Huskies career, one in which he and his classmates have gone from 0-12 to riding roller coasters at bowl games.
"It really hasn't hit me yet. I still feel young," he said, chuckling. "After the game I will probably realize it's just done, I'm not a Husky anymore.
"It's just crazy."
TUESDAY AT THE ALAMO BOWL
Deontae Cooper, Colin Tanigawa and other injured Huskies went on a mid-afternoon trip to the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio. About a half dozen players from each team visited the 65,000 square-foot, $50 million state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility for wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have suffered amputation, undergone limb salvage and been treated for burns. The $50 million center opened in January 2007 after being entirely privately funded by the donations of 600,000 Americans.
On their way to practice in the afternoon, coach Steve Sarkisian and his Huskies signed autographs and footballs for grade school-aged kids from the San Antonio Boys and Girls Club. The children, some wearing University of Texas Longhorns hoodies, walked away giddy at meeting the players and getting their signatures.
"A great visit," their chaperone said.
Tuesday night, the Husky Band was in the lead boat while players and coaches filled four trailing crafts for a short float along downtown San Antonio's RiverWalk for the pre-bowl pep rally. Tourists in other, passing boats gawked and flashed pictures at the site of 300-pound football players piled into the small boats. The Huskies barked during the ride, drawing roars from Huskies fans on the river banks. At one point under a bridge the players rocked their boats side to side, just as they do with their team buses as they arrive at the stadium for each road game. Further downstream, the lead boat with the defensive players engaged in good-natured ribbing with boats passing full of Baylor players. The Huskies flashed W's. The Bears responded by flashing W's - upside down.
Coaches sat on the back of each boat smiling at the scene.
The players then went to a closed, riverside dinner with skits such as a game-show like trivia contest.
QUICK HITS: Wednesday the Huskies will have a walkthrough practice and team picture at the Alamodome, the final full workout before the game. Sarkisian and Baylor coach Art Briles will hold a pregame press conference prior to a noon kickoff luncheon with players from both teams attending and wearing their game jerseys. ... The Huskies will wear white jerseys as the designated visiting team. ... The game is expecting to draw a capacity crowd of around 65,000. Four of the last six Alamo Bowls have been sellouts. ... This is Washington's first trip to the 19-year-old Alamo Bowl. Baylor played Washington State in the first game, in 1994.