Husky Roster Review: Valdez Hopes to Go From Big Sky to UW Big Deal

The Montana State transfer was brought in to shore up a key area for Big Ten play.
Sebastian Valdez listens to some spring practice instruction.
Sebastian Valdez listens to some spring practice instruction. / Skylar Lin Visuals

With his relaxed, confident manner, University of Washington defensive tackle Sebastian Valdez immediately reminds you of Troy Fautanu, right down to the agreeable, conversational tone in his voice.

The next thing noticeable about the Montana State transfer is he's extremely fit for someone 6-foot-4 and 291 pounds, with no obvious belly fat hanging out. Husky teammates suggest he is the strongest player on this team with his 405-pound bench press while he insists that honor belongs to offensive guard Gaard Memmelaar, who has lifted at least 415.

And finally, Valdez clearly pulled more snaps on the No. 1 UW defensive line over the course of 15 spring football practices than any of his peers, making a good first impression in Montlake.

People are hoping that similar to Fautanu on offense, Valdez can take all of his pleasantries and flip a switch, turning into a monster in the trenches and getting the best of others in physical one-on-one encounters.

"There's not a big difference yet, but I know as soon as I step on the field in the Big Ten, there will be," Valdez said of transitioning from FCS to FBS. "But ultimately, at the end of the day, it's just football."

Sebastian Valdez transferred from Montana State to the UW.
Sebastian Valdez transferred from Montana State to the UW. / Skylar Lin Visuals

This is one in a series of articles -- going from 0 to 99 on the Husky roster -- examining what each scholarship player and leading walk-on did this past spring and what to expect from them going forward.

Valdez originally hails from Spring Valley, California, near San Diego, and comes to the UW after receiving second- and first-team All-Big Sky honors the past two seasons. He appeared in 39 games for the Bobcats, though in just one against a Power 5 opponent. In 2022, he had 3 tackles in a 68-28 loss to Oregon State in Corvallis.

That didn't stop anyone at the FCS level from pursuing him in the transfer portal. He received 15 offers, with Miami, California and the aforementioned Beavers among the most persistent besides the UW.

"He's a monster, probably the strongest dude on the team I would say, arguably, as far as power goes," edge rusher Zach Durfee said. "He's working his tail off, a great teammate, great things there."

Valdez calls himself a three-down defensive lineman, equally capable of playing the run as well as pass rushing. He's used three seasons at Montana State to mold himself into a productive player. Asked if he was overlooked and should have been an FBS player right away, he had a surprising answer.

"I'd say humbly no," Valdez responded. "I don't think I should have as a high school player, but that's what happens in football. You develop as a player, you get better and now I think I am."

The last time the Huskies took the field -- without Valdez -- they gave up 303 yards rushing to Michigan and lost the CFP national championship game 34-13. It was an extremely disappointing way to end an otherwise magical run.

Valdez was on the UW sideline as a spectator that day in Houston, watching the game unfold and all the damage that was done. He was signed by Kalen DeBoer's staff before the coach moved to Alabama and Jedd Fisch was able to keep him on board after he replaced DeBoer. The defensive tackle has his marching orders for the coming season.

"We need to stop the run and we need to get to the quarterback -- there's no secret recipe," Valdez said. "We've got to play physical and aggressive. We know the Big Ten likes to run the ball. We have to stop it."

Sebastian Valdez (50) and Jayvon Parker (94) move from drill to drill during the spring.
Sebastian Valdez (50) and Jayvon Parker (94) move from drill to drill during the spring. / Skylar Lin Visuals

SEBASTIAN VALDEZ FILE

What he's done: Valdez is a seasoned player. Not only did he play in 39 games over three Big Sky seasons, he started all but five, including eight in the FCS playoffs -- the latter number almost a season in itself agaisnt high-end opposition. He had 122 tackles for the Bobcats, including 24 tackles for loss and 16 sacks.

Starter or not: Expect him to start. Only quarterback Will Rogers has more career college starting assignments on this UW team than Valdez, 40 to his 34, so it's a role the defensive tackle is accustomed. How Valdez holds up against Big Ten competition will go a long way in determining what kind of team the Huskies will field this coming season.

For the latest UW football and basketball news, go to si.com/college/washington


Published |Modified
Dan Raley

DAN RALEY

Dan Raley has worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, as well as for MSN.com and Boeing, the latter as a global aerospace writer. His sportswriting career spans four decades and he's covered University of Washington football and basketball during much of that time. In a working capacity, he's been to the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the MLB playoffs, the Masters, the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and countless Final Fours and bowl games.