Current University of Washington football players haven't been to a bowl game since 2019, because of the pandemic and a downtrodden season, but program grads won't be sitting idle during the NFL playoffs — 15 former Huskies are involved in the opening rounds of games.
That's five more than UCLA, the Pac-12 program with the next highest number of postseason participants and nearly double of more compared to every other conference entry.
The former Huskies preparing for these pro football playoffs include players dating all the way back to the Steve Sarkisian coaching era in cornerback Desmond Trufant, a nine-year NFL veteran now with the Las Vegas Raiders, up to rookies in cornerback Elijah Molden of the Tennessee Titans and edge rusher Joe Tryon-Shoyinka of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Five the of the six games this weekend involve a former UW player, with only Sunday's Kansas City-Pittsburgh match-up the exception.
Three Huskies will be in uniform for the first NFL playoff game on the schedule that will pair the Bengals and the Raiders in Cincinnati on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. PT. Former Husky tight end Drew Sample will be in Cincy's lineup facing linebacker Cory Littleton and Trufant of the Raiders, all used as reserves.
On Saturday at 5:15 p.m., the New England Patriots meet the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo, with defensive back Myles Bryant coming off the COVID/reserve list and available for the Pats.
The Tampa Bay Bucs will host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at 10 a.m. PT with the defending Super Bowl champions relying on a pair of ex-Huskies in defensive tackle Vita Vea and Tryon-Shoyinka. Vea is a Tampa Bay starter, Tryon-Shoyinka a first-teamer when injuries dictate it.
On Sunday in Dallas at 1:30 p.m. PT, the Cowboys will take on the San Francisco 49ers with former Husky defensive tackle Josiah Bronson a late addition to the Texas team. Bronson, a second-year pro, earlier in the season played for the New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns before getting waived by each team. Dallas signed him on Jan. 4 urgently needing another defensive body and he awaits his Cowboys debut.
In the first NFL playoff game ever held on a Monday, six former Huskies will share in the limelight that comes with an Arizona Cardinals-Los Angeles Rams encounter in Inglewood, California.
The host Rams will rely on former Husky defensive tackle Greg Gaines and safety Taylor Rapp, both starters, and backup center Coleman Shelton, while the Cardinals will counter with safety Budda Baker and cornerback Byron Murphy, also starters, and reserve tight end and special-teamer Darrell Daniels. Baker, a fifth-year NFL pro, recently was named as a second-team All-Pro.
Involved in the playoffs but idle this weekend are Molden and the Titans and cornerback Kevin King and the Green Bay Packers, whose teams are enjoying first-round byes.
Inactive but still part of their playoff teams are quarterback Jake Browning with Cincinnati, wide receiver Andre Baccellia and defensive back/special-teamer Ezekiel Turner for the Cardinals, and defensive tackle Benning Potoa'e for the Buccaneers. Turner has been on injured reserve since midseason.
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