New University of Washington football coach Kalen DeBoer sat at a table beside athletic director Jen Cohen inside Husky Stadium. Family and media members occupied rows of folding chairs in front of him. Several other team followers and athletic department staffers were on their feet in the background while watching everything unfold.
Way off to his right, standing in the back, determined to stay somewhat anonymous behind a COVID-19 mask, was Chris Petersen.
DeBoer knew the former Husky coach was in the room, but he wasn't quite sure where, until Petersen on request finally acknowledged his presence.
In describing who he was and where he came from to the audience, DeBoer mentioned how both Jeff Tedford and Petersen were coaching role models. He worked for one and admired the other from afar.
During this process, he spoke to both of them about the UW job, and they encouraged him to pursue it.
Long ago, Tedford was a successful California coach who built an offense around Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch, spent the 2016 season with Petersen and the CFP-bound Huskies as a consultant, and more recently coached at Fresno State with DeBoer alongside him as his offensive coordinator before replacing him.
"First and foremost, he said this was an amazing place, and I didn't really have to ask why," DeBoer said of Tedford. "It always comes back to the things I've talked about, the community and the people you're around. He just felt very strong about that and he thought this was a great opportunity for me, and I trust him."
Tedford stepped down at Fresno State before the 2020 season to have a heart procedure and the school hired DeBoer to replace him. Fully recovered, it would surprise no one if Tedford became the Bulldogs head coach a second time.
With Petersen, DeBoer admitted to watching Boise State games on Friday nights long ago and stealing different offensive nuances from that staff. He had three coaches on his Fresno State staff who had Boise State backgrounds.
He and Petersen recently spoke on the phone about something they were about to shared in common — each went from a Mountain West Conference school to coach in Seattle.
In taking this job, the new coach mentioned how this was his second visit to Husky Stadium. He didn't provide any detail, other than to say it didn't go well.
What happened was this: Tedford brought his Fresno State team to Seattle in 2017 to face Petersen's Huskies. DeBoer was in his third game as the new offensive coordinator for the Bulldogs. Kicking off at 6:40 p.m. on a balmy night four years ago, this UW team had its way with Fresno State, beating Tedford, DeBoer and the others 48-16.
Recent UW running back Sean McGrew, center Luke Wattenberg, edge rusher Ryan Bowman and kick holder/punter Race Porter made game appearances that night while wide receiver Ty Jones, now at Fresno State, pulled snaps for the Huskies.
DeBoer faced a UW defense that counted 8 of the 11 starters as future NFL players and his offense was restricted to 313 yards of total offense, while the Huskies piled up 420 yards.
That game likely didn't come up in their weekend conversation, which concluded with Petersen encouraging him to take the job in Montlake. The chatted easily while getting acquainted for the first time.
"It's unique because I never met him before," DeBoer said. "On the phone, I felt like I knew him really, really well."
It was a conversation from one Husky coach to yet another.
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