A team offensive analyst for the past four seasons, Derham Cato was asked to apply for Washington's tight-ends coaching vacancy last winter. It's a cushy job, always filled with great players.
Cato, surprised but willing to put in an application, knew all along that there was only one right answer he could give during the interview process.
I won't screw it up.
"In terms of evolving, we were that team that was tight-end heavy 5 to 6 years ago when nobody else was," Cato said, referring to the UW's dual use of players here. "It's really started becoming the position that's in vogue, but it's always been in vogue with us."
The North Carolina native begins his UW coaching tenure with the usual surplus of tight-end talent, led by All-America candidate Cade Otton and certifiable NFL prospect Devin Culp.
Cato backs them up with tested veteran Jacob Kizer and reliable walk-on Jack Westover, who provide a generational buffer between the next wave of top-tier talent coming in, freshmen Mark Redman and Mason West.
To play tight end at Washington, Cato said, players must meet a rigid list of specifications that don't fluctuate.
"The No. 1 aspect they have to have is to be physical," he said. "Obviously, No. 2 is you have to have the size we look for, 6-4-plus and 230 pounds-plus. You have to have that NFL prototype that projects onto the next level, which means you have to be a mauler."
Otton, a 23-game starter over just two seasons, comes back as the headliner. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound junior, who has 45 career catches for 518 yards and 5 touchdowns, is the leader of this group.
"He's everything you want in a player," Cato said. "He brings his lunch pail. He's always locked in. He comes to work every day. He will give you a lot in all facets of the game."
As good as Otton is, Culp might be even better over the long run. The 6-3, 255-pound sophomore looks like an eventual pro football player with his exceptional skill set.
"His potential is really limitless," Cato said of Culp. "He's had an awesome offseason. He sees a chance to take his game to the next level. He's got the size and the speed."
The new coach credits the oft-injured Kizer, a 6-5, 258-pound senior, for getting his health in order and aggressively attacking his workout program. The Oregon native has played in 33 games, starting three when he was a freshman.
Cato describes Westover, a 6-3, 243-pound sophomore, as "a Swiss army knife, someone who has carved out a nice role for himself." He played in all 13 games during his first season, catching 3 passes and scoring once.
Of the arriving freshmen, Redman has the most impressive credentials, both physically and statistically. He's 6-6 and 239 pounds. In his California high school career, Redman caught an astounding 149 passes for 1,832 yards and 25 scores for a tight end.
Cato came to the Washington football program as an analyst from Davidson, where he had worked with former Husky offensive coordinator Butch Hamdan. The Huskies pursued him for the coaching opportunity at the suggestion of new offensive coordinator John Donovan, who had coached with Cato at Vanderbilt.
Coming out of high school, Cato was recruited as a tight end before shifting to the defensive side at Dartmouth. He later played in the CFL, Arena Football League, NFL Europe and afl2. He's been around football in many different ways.
He brings something different to Jimmy Lake's UW coaching staff. His approach is scrappier than most.
"I'm very passionate about this game, I love this game and it's given me a lot," he said. "I came from nothing in football. I was not from a football family. I've always had a chip on my shoulder. I think coach Lake appreciated that."
Lake must have seen something that stuck out in Cato. Because he would have had no shortage of coaches willing to accept this plumb Husky tight-ends job .