By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
Woodward was asking Tuiasosopo for help. And the 34-year-old who was the 2001 Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player for Washington thought immediately of the Dawgs who came before him.
"I just remember when guys would come back when I was a player -- the (Steve) Emtmans, the Leon Neals, I mean, there are so many guys I'm not going to name -- when I was working out they were coaching me," Tuiasosopo said Friday. "Like, 'This is what we do here. This is what Huskies do.'"
Tuiasosopo said "that's the first thought that went through my mind" when Woodward asked him to be UW’s interim coach for the Dec. 27 Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco against Brigham Young.
"I'm thrilled to do it," he said following Friday morning’s resumption of bowl practices.
There was an obvious tone of pride in his words.
"I'm thrilled to help them out in this role. I'm excited about this opportunity,” he said.
"Huskies always help Huskies out."
The Huskies named "Coach Tui" as their interim leader two days before they hired Chris Petersen from Boise State to be their new coach last Friday. UW (8-4) on will play its fourth bowl in as many Decembers about 15 miles across the Bay Bridge from where Tuiasosopo was an Oakland Raiders quarterback for six seasons beginning a dozen years ago.
Petersen was on the sidelines watching some of Friday morning's 80-minute practice at the Dempsey Indoor facility. Tuiasosopo said he has talked with Petersen only briefly and says the new full-time coach has been "great."
"He's stayed out of it," Tuiasosopo said. "He's got a lot to work on. And we've got a lot to work on."
These are indeed strange practice days for the Dawgs. They will have five more – on Saturday and then Monday through Thursday next week -- before they leave for San Francisco on Dec. 22.
The quarterbacks coach, at the same, young age Sarkisian was when UW hired him as a first-time head man in January 2009, is the temporary head coach. And he's not sure what or where his job will be beyond Dec. 27.
Asked if he wanted to remain on Petersen's staff at UW, Tuiasosopo said: "That will all take its course. I really am focusing on the bowl game.
"Whatever happens is going to happen. Regardless, Washington football is in good hands."
Graduate assistants have stepped into position-coach roles at linebacker, defensive back and running back. That's because assistants Peter Sirmon, Keith Heyward and Johnny Nansen left with Sarkisian for USC.
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive-line coach Tosh Lupoi were coaching the Huskies as usual in Friday’s practice. After it, Tuiasosopo said Wilcox will have more command over the entire defense, teaching and leading all positions, more than he did previously as an overseer of a full defensive staff.
Tuiasosopo also reiterated what he tweeted Wednesday while taking over the @FightHungerBowl feed with BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall: UW offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau will primarily call the plays in the bowl game.
It will be the first time Kiesau has called plays since he was Colorado's offensive coordinator in 2009 and '10. After one season as passing-game coordinator and wide receivers coach at California, Kiesau joined Sarkisian's UW staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach beginning with the 2012 season -- but Sarkisian was the Huskies' play caller.
Through all the uncertainty and upheaval, the life-long Husky is proud of his current ones.
"These young men have handled it great. They are ready to move on, and they want to finish the season right," Tuiasosopo said. "I'm having fun. These kids are great.
"We've always talked about, we don't change. Circumstances don't change us -- even this one.
"I always wonder, how are they going to be? You never know. It's an inspiration, really, to come out here. They bring the intensity. They are running around. They are enthusiastic. They are competing.
"So we are in a great place right now."
Will there be a “Tui stamp” on this single game as a head coach, a memory or extension of the determined, gritty, former dual-threat Huskies quarterback that will show up in the bowl game two weeks from Friday?
“We’ve done some good things. There’s some great groundwork that’s been laid,” Tuiasosopo said of this team having a chance at UW’s first nine-win season since he led the Huskies to 11 victories and that Rose Bowl win in the 2000 season.
“Hopefully, my enthusiasm, my passion for this game (will show through) -- and I think they understand that, the quarterbacks do, obviously with how I coach them, but how I am with them on a daily basis.
“You know, we’ve done some good things. I don’t want to change anything too much. We’re going to fight – but we always fight. We are going to go down there to win the game.
“And we are going to compete our butts off.”