Thompson Experiences `Something Bigger Than Myself'
Oct. 27, 2011
Gregg Bell Unleashed: Can't Keep Good Dawgs Down
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - Everrette Thompson has been starting in all four of his seasons at Washington.
The versatile, athletic defensive lineman has helped lead the revitalization from 0-12 to a bowl win in just two seasons. He helped shepherd the Huskies through a jolting coaching change in 2009. This season he's helped them become ranked for only the second time since 2003, and needing one win to gain eligibility for a second consecutive bowl appearance. That hasn't happened at UW since 2001-02.
Yet when Thompson, Cort Dennison, Senio Kelemete, Alameda Ta'amu and fellow seniors are sitting around the dinner table in Conibear Shellhouse following practices this fall, their best UW memory is of a small, roadside motor lodge in Moscow, Idaho.
And perhaps lamest excuse they've ever heard.
Ta'amu and Kelemete, now UW's anchor at offensive tackle but then a defensive lineman, were late for a meeting of defensive players hours before the 2008 Apple Cup in Pullman. Seems Ta'amu and Kelemete told their coaches they got lost inside the team hotel.
The Huskies stay while at Washington State games in a two-story, square motor lodge 8 miles east of Pullman. It's literally square. Four long hallways connect in right angles to each other among the guest rooms. The first floor and second floor are in exactly the same, simple configuration.
"Yeah, exactly," Thompson said. "And they said they got lost."
Thompson, who started that game at WSU, was still shaking his head and laughing three years later, before he starts again for Washington (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) against Arizona (2-5, 1-4) Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Husky Stadium (ROOT Sports/Fox Sports Network television, the Washington IMG College radio network and here again at GoHuskies.com with the live game chat).
"The whole defense was waiting for them. The D-coordinator was going off -- on us!" Thompson said of that delayed hotel meeting before the '08 Apple Cup. "Coach Hart, he was trippin'. He was in my face, yelling at me, `WHERE ARE THEY?!!!'
"It was like, down the hallway and there's the meeting room for defense. Yeah, that was funny."
It's all laughs now for Thompson.
Hey, after all he's been through at UW, he deserves a chuckle. Or three.
Thompson could have gone almost anywhere he wanted out of Kennedy High School in the Seattle suburb of Renton. The high-school All-American defensive lineman says "the whole Pac-10, basically" offered him scholarships in 2007 and early '08.
He could have gone to Notre Dame. He visited its famed campus and program in South Bend, Ind., and said he "loved the atmosphere, but it was just too far" from home.
He ultimately signed with UW -- over Oregon.
"I almost ended up going there, then I decided to stay here," he said. "I felt like I wanted to play more in my hometown.
"I chose Washington for the tradition that they've always had. And I wanted to be a part of something to change the culture again. I felt U-Dub was in the darker days, I guess, not winning as many games. I wanted to be part of that group that helped get them winning, back to what it's always been."
It got darker before it got brighter.
The first game of Thompson's freshman season, Aug. 30, 2008, the Huskies got routed by the Ducks in Eugene 44-10.
Sorry to remind you that it was first of 12 losses in 12 games that season for UW, the worst in the program's storied, 120-season history.
Thompson played in 11 of 12 games and started three as a true freshman. In retrospect, he says that '08 team "wasn't really together."
"Some of us were playing hard. Some of us were not," he said. "That's how we ended up with the record we had. All the little things built up in that season."
Meanwhile, that 2008 Oregon team went 10-3 and won the Holiday Bowl. And the Ducks have since been to the Rose Bowl and the BCS championship game.
Asked now if he regretted then his decision of Washington instead of Oregon, Thompson laughs.
"Not me," he says. "But I think my family, and some other friends were like `Why did you pick U-Dub, man? You could have gone to some other school.'
"But I just wanted to be part of something bigger than myself."
He's done that.
Thompson and returning Huskies endured a shocking regime change beginning in January '09. Passionate coach Steve Sarkisian and his revved-up staff installed new ways to lift weights, to run, even how to eat and sleep - and, ultimately, win.
"They had plans and goals, a mentality that things matter around here," he said. "All the little things that we do, everything counts. That helped us come a long way, before any wins.
New defensive coordinator Nick Holt was especially jolting. Looking like Mr. Clean and barking like a drill sergeant, the former maestro of championship defenses at USC and former head coach at Idaho demanded intensity and aggressiveness, from the weight room to the game field.
Rather than wonder "What did I get myself into?" Thompson found Holt to be familiar. Almost comforting, even.
"He kind of reminded me of my old high school coach, (Bob) Bourgette, and Joe Shaw, my defensive line coach. They were really high energy people," said Thompson, who is set to graduate in the spring with an ethnic studies degree.
At 6-feet-6, 272 pounds, with the toughness of an interior linemen and the athleticism for the edge, Thompson has played both tackle and end for the Huskies. Holt likes him best at end, where's he's been more often this season. It's allowed Thompson to showcase his long arms and height, and it allows UW to pair Ta'amu with Semisi Tokolahi, Lawrence Lagafuaina and Danny Shelton in a bigger defensive-tackle rotation inside.
"It shows the defensive coaches and coordinator trust me, to put me in those situations," he said of playing multiple positions. "It shows off, I guess, my athleticism and my versatility, my understanding of the defense."
His family and friends have gotten to see it all, in person. Mother Caroline, a nurse at Valley Medical Center near Renton, and father Einer, an independent residential contractor bring Everrette's younger brother to his Husky games. Almost all of them in four years.
That means they've seen all Everrette has been through here.
"Yeah, I've thought about that a lot. I just sit back and think, `Man, to come from not winning a game to (5-2)?' It feels great," he said.
"This is exactly the building blocks of what I had in mind."