Aug. 12, 2008
SEATTLE - Day nine of the Washington football team's fall camp featured the usual Tuesday/Thursday schedule of weights and meetings in the morning and a full-squad practice in the afternoon.
Coach Tyrone Willingham met with the media at midday. Asked about the status of quarterback Jake Locker, Willingham had nothing new to report, but did note that Locker is taking part in a few drills while not participating fully in practice.
Willingham also addressed the loss of wide receiver Curtis Shaw, who left the squad Monday for family reasons. Willingham noted that the loss was unfortunate, but that the current size of the group of receivers doesn't necessitate moving a player from another position to fill the void. "We still have a pretty good number of bodies at the receiver position," he said.
Finally, Willingham noted that he's been happy with the newcomers to the team, saying that his highly-touted group of recruits has "elevated the level of competition" for the whole team.
One newcomer, though eight years older than many of his cohorts, is safety Tripper Johnson. Johnson, from Bellevue's Newport High, originally signed a letter of intent to play baseball with the Huskies out of high school, but opted to sign with the Baltimore Orioles after being selected in the first round of the 2000 draft.
Johnson spent eight seasons in the Orioles organization, but last spring, hung up the bat and glove in favor of a helmet and shoulder pads when he decided to enroll at the UW and walk on the football team.
Recently, Johnson sat down with GoHuskies.com. Here's what he had to say:
After eight years of minor league baseball, you're back playing football. How's it going?
"It's going pretty well. This is my first go-around at camp, and it's going well. You know, it's tough - a lot of work, a lot of hours watching film, and then we have to go practice on top of it. So yeah, it's very tough but I'm enjoying it so far."
Can you shed some light on how playing baseball all those years has affected your go at football? Do you think baseball helped in the long run?
"Yeah I think it's helped out. Baseball taught me how to plan, to get in a routine. You can't just show up and play. You have to have a plan. You have to treat your body right, you have to eat healthy, and you have to stay consistent in the weight room. Playing baseball for all those years, at the professional level, has definitely helped me mentally and maturity-wise."
What's it like being a newcomer in terms of team experience, but at the same time having the age and experience of the older players?
"I fit in pretty well. You know I'm a freshman because I'm coming in new, but I have the experience of playing at the professional level. A lot of the guys want to know about the experience, and what that was like. I think it's helped me maturity-wise because I've been around the block. Even though I just came in here a lot of the guys kind of look up to me because I've been to that level and they want to know about my life and how I got here."
What's been the biggest thing you've had to adjust to coming back to football now?
"I think the biggest difference has been the physicality. These guys are all strong and fast, and that's probably the toughest thing I've had to deal with, the physical part of the game. Everyone is going to hit you hard, everyone is strong and fast, and playing baseball you don't really get exposed to that physicality. That's been the toughest part."
How is the mental side of the game coming for you? How has it been learning schemes and analyzing offenses under Coach Donatell?
"It's going pretty well. My mind was away from football for a while, so I was pretty lost out there beginning in spring camp. I was pretty lost and pretty confused within the defense, but it's coming around. I didn't expect to learn everything right away, and it's pretty confusing, but I'm starting to get the hang of it and I'm getting better so it's going pretty well."
What's the biggest crowd you played in front of during your baseball career? Are you ready to play in front of 70,000+ fans?
"I think the biggest crowd I played in front of was about 10,000-12,000 when I was playing minor league ball. Yeah, it's going to be a big step up playing in front of 50, 60, 70 thousand people. So I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait."