From video games to prodigious eating at off-beat spots to “regular stuff” like hanging out at the mall, the Huskies share their favorite ways to be off the football field.
By Monica Lee
SEATTLE -- Jaydon Mickens takes his position at the line of scrimmage, ready for Keith Price to take the snap.
Knees bent, palms sweaty, Mickens stares down the field.
Price receives the snap. Mickens jukes left, breezing past the cornerback, ready for the perfect loft from his quarterback.
Mickens, fingers twitching with anticipation, catches Price’s 50-yard floater as the crowd erupts. He runs into the end zone for one of his career-high seven touchdowns in another Huskies win.
Okay, this play didn’t actually happen. You didn’t miss the sophomore wide receiver score seven touchdowns.
But in Mickens’ video game world, this happens frequently.
“In NCAA (Football, the video game, not the real thing), I always play as Washington and I throw the ball to myself every time,” Mickens said recently, describing in one the many ways the Huskies spend their limited time away from football.
“It’ll be Keith Price for about 600 yards and myself for about 600 yards and a couple touchdowns – maybe seven touchdowns.”
To most football fans, players exist to play the sport and provide entertainment, and wins. Yet there are student-athletes – real guys -- that live in those pads and beneath those gold helmets.
Off the field, these athletes are just like other UW students. They go to class, eat at Chipotle on The Ave. And they love playing video games.
Granted, morning practices, weight lifting, afternoon classes then meetings, team meals in the evenings and studying each night – recently these Huskies have had one of the highest combined grade-point averages in the last dozen or so years of UW football -- take up most of their time during the season.
But when they have free time they’re normal college 18-to-22-year olds.
“On the weekends during the summer I pretty much just enjoy the weather, go to the mall, do regular stuff,” Bishop Sankey, who is third in the nation in rushing at 145.3 yards per game entering Saturday’s 5 p.m. kickoff at Husky Stadium against Colorado, said casually.
That fits the understated, low-key star.
HOPPING ON “THE STICKS”
What does “regular stuff” entail for Husky football players?
Did we mention video games?
“We just immediately play the video games,” junior running back Jesse Callier said. “I take a nap, wake up, play video games.”
Not all the players are video-game aficionados like Callier and roommate, junior Colin “Panda” Tanigawa. But everyone enjoys playing a game.
“I’ll hop on the sticks – [PlayStation 3] here and there,” Sankey said, “but not too much.”
Regardless of time spent on a controller, favorites among the team are Madden NFL ’13, NCAA Football (which producer EA Sports will soon discontinue), and Call of Duty.
Aside from the energetic Mickens, most of the Huskies don’t like playing as themselves on NCAA.
“It’s overrated. Underrated, but overrated,” co-captain and senior defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha explained jokingly.
“I suck. He doesn’t listen to me. They dive when you don’t want them to.”
The frustration gets to Sankey, too.
“Sometimes I’ll get mad if I start doing bad,” Sankey said. “So I don’t even go there.”
Redshirt-freshman quarterback Jeff Lindquist played as himself once.
“It was a weird experience,” Lindquist said, “kind of surreal.
“It’s a little bit of a shock.”
But for Callier the experience isn’t anything special.
“I’ve played as myself,” he said, “but I don’t get like, ‘Yeah, that’s me!’ because it’s really not. It’s a made-up number. They probably have your stats in there, but not how fast you are.
“It’s not really that personal, it just has (his jersey number) 24!”
Junior defensive tackle Danny Shelton rarely plays NCAA. He plays Call of Duty with “the boys.”
“I just started getting into it this year because I roomed with John Timu over the summer,” the nose tackle said.
“I got hooked on Call of Duty.”
Next-door neighbor and wide receiver Kasen Williams, recently lost for the rest of this season with a broken leg, will occasionally play a game or two with roommate Sankey.
And Lindquist likes to play with his linemen roommates, Jake Eldrenkamp and Michael Kneip at their house nicknamed “Olympus.” Lindquist’s car is appropriately named “Pegasus.”
Naturally, athletes will make a competition out of anything.
And to satisfy their competitive spirit, the players play for video games for pushups.
“For Madden, we do best out of three,” linebacker Shaq Thompson said.
“We (play for) pushups sometimes. Fifty to a 100.”
It may seem like punishing a Division-I athlete with pushups is not much of a punishment.
Well, there’s more to it.
“We do pushups on call,” Mickens said. “If you lose in a video game, you get 20 pushups. On call.
“So we could be in a meeting and you could say, ‘hey, give me five pushups,’ and they have to do those five pushups and then you have to remember your count. So after that five you only have 15 left and that’s your punishment.
“Even in the showers.”
Um … OK.
Another game the Huskies play, at meals, was introduced by former Washington safety C.J. Wallace.
“Lay-lay-good,” is a game from Northern California, senior safety Will Shamburger said.
The premise: if someone has a plate of food and doesn’t protect it, another person can take it. A person may attempt to steal a plate of food by tapping on the plate and saying, “lay-lay-good.” If the owner doesn’t protect their plate by first calling “lay-lay-good,” the plate is forfeited.
Shamburger said that Price, his hometown friend from Compton, Calif., and other teammates had to quit “lay-lay-good.” They could never remember to protect their food.
When the football players aren’t at the Conibear Shellhouse dining with the other Husky athletes, they are on The Ave or close by.
Overall, the team’s favorite – and probably the rest of the student population’s favorite – is Chipotle, the burrito place on University Way NE.
However, two blocks north and on the opposite side of the street Williams has a custom-made hamburger at E J Burger.
The burger is called the “2K.” The restaurant employees know Williams as his burger name, “2K,” a combination of his UW jersey number and the first letter of his first name.
“I created my own burger there based off of one of the burgers they already had,” the receiver said of the off-menu, heretofore-unknown specialty.
“It’s a California burger, which is a slice of Swiss cheese, bacon, and avocado. And what I get is a double California burger with one slice American and one slice Swiss.”
North of E J Burger is a taco truck that Callier claims to be the closest to Mexican food he eats at home in Downey, Calif.
“Honestly, nobody probably knows this, but I found the spot,” Callier divulged. “It’s in Northgate. You’ve got to check it out. I got like a burrito and two tacos for like $6. Six dollars? I can deal with that.”
Callier’s inexpensive Mexican meal can be purchased at Taqueria la Pasadita on Northgate Way. The truck is tucked away in a gas station parking lot and accepts cash only.
Other frequented restaurants include Red Robin in Northgate, Teriyaki 1st and Hawaii BBQ Restaurant. The latter two are both on The Ave.
Barbeques are a choice pastime for the Husky football team.
“The ‘uces.’ Those guys are really the barbeque fanatics,” Mickens said.
“Uce” is a Samoan term similar to “brother” or “homie.” The Huskies’ many Polynesian players generally use it and the term refers to the “Polys,” but it bears no discrimination.
“And ’Panda’ Tanigawa, Ben Riva, Lawrence Lagafuaina. The O-line and D-line. Josh Banks. All those guys are barbeque fiends,” Mickens said. “Even Jesse Callier.
“We go barbeque,” Kikaha said. “Everything involves food in some way.
“The Hawaiian/Polynesian way is to make food for everybody.”
“The Polynesian group: all the Polynesians plus a couple others. And we accept everyone!” Kikaha, a native Hawaiian, practically shouted.
Just remember that Polynesian doesn’t necessarily mean Hawaiian.
“We’re all different Polys. Samoan, Tongan. We just call each other Polys,” said Shelton.
Junior defensive end Andrew Hudson enjoys cooking on a smaller scale.
“I like to have people over for breakfast before class or something,” he said.
“When school starts, it’s nice to just be able to go home and eat. Sometimes after workouts, I push my tutoring class back so I can go home and make breakfast and have some teammates over like Taz (Stevenson) or Hau’oli.”
Hudson moved closer to campus, allowing him to host teammates for breakfast. Others live in Lake City or Northgate.
Commuting from Lake City takes a fair amount of time. But many of the players drive or carpool to Husky Stadium.
Drivers have parking passes close to the stadium, which are fully taken advantage of for academic and football purposes.
Still, some prefer to walk to class.
Sankey, Shelton, Lindquist elect to travel to class on foot, but drive to practice or meetings.
“It kind of gives me time in the morning to wake up,” Shelton said.
THESE DAWGS HAVE DOGS, OF COURSE
Shelton along with a handful of teammates have to walk their dogs, too.
Callier and Tanigawa, junior Josh Shirley, Shelton, sophomore Taniela Tupou, sophomore Marcus Peters, and senior Antavius Sims all own pit bulls.
Callier and Tanigawa co-parent a one-year-old puppy named Junior.
“He’s the softest, nicest little puppy ever,” Callier gushed.
“He needs puppy-playing time. I take him to a little park down the street because people are scared of pit bulls. I don’t know why.
“He’s vicious … but the softest thing.”
Shelton lives in a studio with his dog. Tupou’s dog is a brother to Shelton’s female dog. Yep, from the same litter.
After all that, these Huskies dedicate any remaining free time to relaxing activities.
“I guess right now since we’re being so active, we just like to watch TV. Kind of not do a whole lot,” Lindquist said.
Watching football is always a popular choice. But not for everyone. For some of the players the end of football practice means the end of football for the day.
“A lot of us try to get our minds off of football,” Shelton said. “When I’m done with football, I’m done with football. I don’t even watch football.”
The outgoing Mickens, UW’s leading receiver through eight games, gets a laugh out of watching “Real Husbands of Hollywood.” He also highly recommends “Elysium.” The whole team attended a screening of the movie in Chicago the day before UW beat Illinois there in September.
Sankey? He is a self-described “sitcom person.”
“I’m more so like a ‘Martin’ and ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ guy,” he said.
Shelton enjoys martial arts movies -- and has watched “Lilo & Stitch.”
Shamburger likes comedic cartoons such as “Family Guy” and, yes, “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
Williams spends more time on the computer.
“I watch YouTube videos and listen to Eric Thomas, who is a motivational speaker,” he said. “Eric Thomas the Hip Hop Preacher has these segments called, ‘Thank God It’s Monday,’ and it’s just all about motivational.”
The Sammamish, Wash., native has been working on the mental aspect of offense. He recently finished the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill as a tool.
Kikaha reads Hawaiian history books to learn more about his Hawaiian culture. The ethic-studies major wants to become a professor of Pacific Islander history after he’s done playing football.
No matter what they do, turns out that every Husky is – surprise! -- still a college kid.