Pasadena native Colin Tanigawa is playing at the Rose Bowl, which he used to run around the outside of as a teen. He is one of 39 Huskies from southern California, so there are scant few extra tickets to be had among players for Friday night’s game at UCLA.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE -- Colin Tanigawa is finally playing inside the stadium he used to run around the outside of while growing up.
The Huskies’ rugged right guard will make his 10th consecutive start this week, after two knee injuries in 10 months ruined his previous two seasons. Friday’s 6 p.m. test for Washington (6-3, 3-3 Pac-12) at No. 13 UCLA (7-2, 4-2) -- on ESPN2, the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with another exclusive game chat -- will be played inside the Rose Bowl, next to where Tanigawa grew up in Pasadena, Calif.
Yet he’s never played a game in there. The Huskies haven’t played UCLA in the Rose Bowl since 2009. Tanigawa was a senior at Pasadena’s Loyola High School then, going on conditioning runs with his aunt on the golf course, wooded valley and parking lots that surround the iconic stadium.
“Yeah, that’s going to be a game I’ve always wanted to play in, to play in the Rose Bowl,” Tanigawa, now a redshirt junior for the Huskies, said before the team left Thursday afternoon for his hometown. “It was five minutes from my house.”
The Huskies have 39 players from southern California on their roster, from quarterback Keith Price and safety Will Shamburger (Compton) through wide receivers John Ross (Long Beach) and Damore’ea Stringfellow (Perris) plus safety and co-captain Sean Parker (Los Angeles). None have played a college game inside the Rose Bowl.
“Guys are excited,” Price said following Wednesday morning’s practice at Husky Stadium. “I know I’m excited. It will probably be my last time playing in L.A.”
There are so many SoCal Dawgs, players this week are telling friends and family members to fend for themselves for extra tickets. In a usual game week players can ask teammates who are not using their allotments for extras.
“Half the team’s from California,” Parker said, laughing, “so there’s no use asking.”
Parker is excited to be playing across town from where he grew up and went to high school, Narbonne in Harbor City just south of Los Angeles.
The reason he’s never been inside the Rose Bowl for a UCLA game is clear: “I was an USC fan growing up.”
Price and Shamburger are Washington’s only fifth-year seniors. They were redshirting their first year when UW last played at the Rose Bowl, a 24-23 loss to UCLA on Nov. 7, 2009, in coach Steve Sarkisian’s first season.
Asked if the venue alone makes this an even bigger game in the Huskies’ quest to take the next step beyond three consecutive seven-win seasons, Sarkisian paused for a second.
“That’s an interesting question, because we do have so many kids from southern California on our team. Any time you get a chance to play in front of your friends and family that’s a unique experience for them,” said the native of Torrance, the eighth-largest city in Los Angeles County.
“You know, to play in the Rose Bowl in January is the ultimate goal. To get a taste of the venue during the regular season at some point in their career is really motivating -- especially if you go out and you play well.”
Just playing in any stadium is motivated and a blessing for Tanigawa, after two knee reconstructions in two years.
“I’m still thankful as hell, man,” the junior from says.
“Before, back in the day, it was ‘Oh, I have to be back out at practice.’ Now, I really enjoy my time out here.”
Tanigawa’s experience coupled with his power and toughness are main reasons why Bishop Sankey is No. 3 in the country averaging 145 yards rushing per game and has 384 yards in his last two games, wins over California and Colorado. Tanigawa’s presence is also a large factor in Washington having the 10th-ranked offense in the country at 515.9 yards per game.
“He brings a nastiness to our line,” is how Sarkisian puts it.
“He is a blue-collar, hard-nosed offensive lineman. That’s why we love him so much. He doesn’t mind getting a little dirt under his nails, digging in there and getting after it. He provides a great deal of attitude to our offensive line, but he’s very bright. He’s very smart.
“It’s great to have him back in there.”
True to his understated personality, Tanigawa just shrugs off the compliments about his toughness – which belie his nickname of “Panda.” (It’s for his looks, not his play).
“It’s just something I’ve learned as I’ve grown over the years. It’s just from fundamentals from how I play the game, how I was taught,” he said of his nasty streak on the field. “Just get after guys all game. That’s how you should play.”
Asked if he’s as intense off the field, Tanigawa showed a small smile and said, “Nah, I’m pretty relaxed off the field.”
That’s even though he has a pit-bull mix for a pet. The dog’s name is Junior.
Tanigawa got into football through persistence. Or it might have been nagging.
“I kept asking my mom (Pamela) to play pee-wee football, and she wouldn’t let me until eighth grade,” he said.
“I asked for it for Christmas my eighth-grade year, and she finally let me play.”
He started as a tight end and defensive end that year for the La Canada Gladiators youth team, and as a freshman at Loyola in Pasadena. As a sophomore he moved to interior line full time.
He became a first-team All-California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section offensive lineman as a guard in 2009. The Los Angeles Times named him the top offensive lineman in southern California his senior year.
Mom, a secretary at a law firm in Los Angeles, dad Marty (the manager at a Ralph’s grocery store in L.A.) and a pack of Tanigawa fans will be in the Rose Bowl Friday.
Finally, he will be running inside of it instead of around its outside.
INSIDE THE HUSKIES: Both Huskies’ starting-11 units are preparing for UCLA freshman Myles Jack. That's because in addition to being a dynamic linebacker, the product of Bellevue High School in the Seattle suburbs last week made his college debut at running back -- and gained 120 yards on just six carries to lead the Bruins past Arizona in Tucson. Monday, Jack became the first primarily defensive player in memory to win the Pac-12's offensive player-of-the-week award. He was playing running back because of UCLA's many injuries at the position. "He's such a different back than they have," Sarkisian said. "The other guys are a little quicker, kind of a scat-back type. Myles is obviously a very physical runner. Different style, so obviously a different approach to tackling. But the plays are similar. He's a physical player." Sarkisian said he saw Jack as a college two-way player when he -- and seemingly the rest of college football -- recruited him out of Bellevue High."Oh, yeah, he's definitely talented enough to do that," Sarkisian said.