Can you feel that?
For real. I’m asking all y’all. At this exact second: Can you feel that?
The way your heart skips a beat when you think about what’s going to happen Saturday afternoon. The goose bumps covering your arms. The urge to jump outta your seat and knock one of them Bama players flat on his back.
You know what those feelings mean?
You’re alive, young fellas.
That energy you’re feeling, I still remember it. I miss it. And the first time I really felt it was when I got the chance to run outta that tunnel at Husky Stadium.
I’d do anything to feel that adrenaline rush again.
That tunnel’s a sacred place.
That tunnel’s a sacred place, man. I remember being down there, standing in the back when I was a freshman. When we left our locker room, the opposing team was already in the tunnel standing there in front of us. Every single time we lined up in there, the other team would be trying to psych themselves into thinking they had a shot in our house, hollering at us and making as much noise as possible. All the juniors and seniors up front would be barking back at them — literally barking, as if they were dogs in their cage ready to eat.
And then one of our guys started the chant.
When the rest of us heard that, we knew it was showtime.
We’d do that over and over again.
I’m getting goose bumps thinking about it right now, man.
But it didn’t stop there, ’cause then the slow whine of the siren started going off.
That thing cranked up our adrenaline like I can’t even explain. The Dawgs were about to be let loose. That’s when we knew the fun was about to start … when we were going to be able to release the pent-up aggression that had been building up all week on our opponent. All I could ever think was, Damn, we about to party.
By the time I was a senior, I had earned the chance to be one of the guys leading the team in those chants and out onto the field. Every time we left that tunnel, we were embraced by 70,000 screaming Huskies fans, so loud that there was no possible way to even hear yourself think. That s*** was crazy.
In that moment, I felt only one thing: power.
I’d get out on the field and look over to the sideline where our coach, the legendary Don James — “the Dawgfather” — would be standing like a god. It was like there was a heavenly light shining down on our side of the field. I always took a moment to soak it all in.
We felt like we were gladiators out there.
Ever since I had started going to games in 1990, when I would sit in the student section with the other recruits, I knew that I wanted to play in front of Seattle’s original 12th Man. Sitting in my seat on the 50-yard line, in the middle of all that noise, I kept telling myself that, one day, I would be the first guy running outta that tunnel and leading my team into battle.
So when I finally got that chance, I wanted to do everything I could to get the crowd fired up. These were my people. I might not have known most of them individually, but I still felt as though I had to fight for all of them as if they were my best friends. And sometimes in the fourth quarter of a close game, I’d need them. So you know what I’d do?
I’d raise my hand.
That’s when they knew. That’s when our fans knew that it was time to make noise and try to confuse the opponent’s quarterback. My arm was like a damn lightning rod. The quarterback would be trying to call out signals to his linemen or receivers, but it was no use — because we didn’t have just a school behind us. We didn’t have just a city, either.
We had an entire state cheering us on.
That right there is power.
Young fellas, listen closely. I’ve been watching you guys for the past couple of years and what I’ve seen is really extraordinary. Y’all have brought the Washington program back to where it once was under Don James, back to the glory years. That’s not just me saying that just to say it — it’s the darn truth. The job isn’t done, but I think we all need to give credit where credit is due.
The first person I’m looking at is someone who I like to call the second coming of the Dawgfather — your coach, Chris Petersen.
Let me tell you guys something real quick: I’ve been lucky enough to play for some of the greatest coaches ever, and that dude is something special. He cares deeply about his players and his university. He unites this city and state with the school like no other coach since Don James. And because of that, you guys have balled out. I mean, you guys have gotten our swagger back. And, I can’t tell you often enough — I’m so proud of that.
And, I gotta say, the feeling that I get when I walk into your locker room is eerily similar to what we had in the early ’90s. Coach Pete had to make some pretty difficult decisions early on — cutting a star recruit here, suspending an every-down player there. But he did so with a purpose. And that purpose was to return this team to its roots: Respect those who came before you, respect the man next to you and respect the program.
That’s what Washington football is all about. It’s that brotherhood. That camaraderie. It’s something that’s talked about a lot, but rarely achieved.
Now you have it. Relish it.
Here’s the deal: The mainstream media is counting us out right now. You know the kinds of things they’re saying.
Bama is too good for Washington.
The Huskies haven’t proven much.
It’s gonna be a blowout.
Let me tell you something right now: The “experts” don’t have a f****** clue.
They don’t know how much you all have grinded throughout the season to get to this point. They don’t know what Coach Pete is really telling you guys out on the practice field, inside of that locker room before and after a big game or in a quiet moment. They just flat out don’t know.
Which is why I’m telling you this right now: I believe you will beat Alabama. In my heart of hearts. I believe it. And I don’t give a damn whether someone tells me I’m crazy. I’ve seen enough this year to show me that y’all are ready for this challenge.
Let’s start with the offense. The way that Coach Petersen and his staff have built the team means that we’re a multifaceted monster. We’re balanced. On one play, we can have Jake Browning airing it out with Joe Montana–like precision to John Ross. And then once the defense is back on its heels because of Jake’s arm, we can gash it with Myles Gaskin or Lavon Coleman. Our O-line knows how to get the job done. They can wear out the defense until we find the end zone.
And then, what about the heart of Washington football? The defense has played its tail off all year long. Truth be told, there wasn’t really a true Washington defense until this current crew of recruits started getting more playing time. As much as he’s improved the mentality at the program, Coach Petersen has also done a phenomenal job of keeping our local talent in-state.
Budda Baker, stand up. I gotta say one thing to you, man. Thank you. Thank you for staying home. You’re everything that’s right about the kids in the Pacific Northwest: You work hard on and off the field, and you know how much it means to your fans that you stuck around. You like that home cooking. You’re the heartbeat of our defense. Your commitment to the program means more than you know. You’ll go down as a legend in the state of Washington for your decision. You’ve left a legacy here for other kids from Washington to follow.
We’re all so proud of you, dawg.
Here’s the deal: Can we beat Alabama? Yes, I believe we can.
But Budda isn’t the only dude who’s balling out there. Everybody’s played hard for the greater good this season, and I think that’s all because of how Coach Petersen and his staff have handled their team. You guys are bringing back early-’90s Washington football. I don’t wanna sound like the old guy in the room, but it’s true. I’ve been waiting nearly 25 years to see another Huskies defense that can break an offense’s will.
Imma be honest with you: There were some years that I wasn’t proud to be a Husky. I didn’t like the vibe when I visited kids on the team or spoke in the locker room. I mean, I was still a Dawg, but I didn’t like how we were playing. There was no heart. But now, Coach Petersen has done what so many coaches couldn’t, and that’s bring the pride back to Seattle. He’s made me proud — he’s made all the football alumni proud.
But we all know the job isn’t done yet. A college football semifinal is amazing. But it’s not what we all want.
Here’s the deal: Can we beat Alabama? Yes, I believe we can. I don’t have much to say about the Crimson Tide’s offense, but their defense is the best in the game. I get that. But what’s making me crazy is that a lot of people are saying we can’t compete. I just think it’s funny — I was hearing a whole lot of that type of talk back around Super Bowl XXXVI, when everyone was saying that the Patriots had zero chance against the Rams.
Yeah, we had no chance at all.
You guys have met or surpassed all expectations and have started a new era of greatness at Washington, and you have everybody excited about the future of the program. That’s something to be really proud of.
But my question to all of you before you take the field against Alabama is this: Why not now?
We got a shot do take down the best team in the country. Hell, it might be the best Alabama team ever. What an opportunity.
And you want to know the best part: We can do it.
You’ve earned it. You did it the old fashioned way — by grinding, and by respecting your elders, your brothers and the people around you. Every week was a battle in practice, but no one really saw that. They only saw the product out there on Saturdays. So you’re ready. Every single one of you. Yes, every one of you down to the damn ball boys have given this team a chance to win every week.
Now as a result of all that work, you’re two games away from bringing Washington its first national championship since before any of you were born.
On behalf of every Huskies fan, I just wanna thank you for taking us with you on this journey and bringing this program back where it belongs.
Thank you guys for buying into the program. You never know what buying in means until you have a shot to go after greatness. And now, you’ve put yourselves in the position to do just that.
And remember, if you ever need us, you know what to do.
Raise your hand.