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Losing Games and Losing Otton Was Not in the Husky Playbook

The veteran tight end hopes to finish stronger than he began this season.

Cade Otton is in Tucson, Arizona, tonight, playing in a college football game surrounded by losing. This is new to him.

The host Arizona Wildcats bring a nation-worst, 18-game losing streak into the Pac-12 match-up against Otton and a University of Washington football team that has dropped its last two games and is 2-4.

While football offers no guarantees for anyone, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound junior tight end from Tumwater, Washington, was raised on winning. 

Regular-season games. Playoff appearances. State championships. Outing after outing.

Retired three years now, Cade's grandfather Sid Otton stands as the winningest high school football coach in Washington state history, stepping away with a 394-131 record at Tumwater High School that included 27 postseason berths and five state titles. 

Winning is what the Ottons do. They work hard and share in success.

Well before Cade, Sid's sons Brad and Tim played for him. Brad Otton later quarterbacked the USC Trojans while Tim Otton became the long-time Tumwater defensive coordinator for his father. Another Otton, Cade's younger brother Ryan, wasn't able to play for his grandfather, but he's coming out of Tumwater with a UW scholarship in hand after drawing a lot of attention.

Cade turned up as a local hero by starting at one of the two tight-end positions for the Huskies immediately following his redshirt and playing for UW teams that lost just 3, 4, 5 and 1 games until now.

Two-and-four has been new territory, almost a shock to the system, so much that it has prompted family discussions.

"My dad and my grandpa have both talked to me about this time because it is hard — we don't lose this many games around here," Otton said. "My grandpa, in the start of his career, he lost a bunch of games. He talked about staying committed and keep grinding."

A pass for Cade Otton in the end zone is knocked away.

UCLA knocks down an end-zone pass headed for Cade Otton.

The Huskies have not only lost more games than they anticipated at this stage of the season, they also lost Otton for two of the setbacks.

Healthy throughout his college career, Otton tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the California and Oregon State games. While the circumstances of his situation were not spelled out, with all UW students required to be vaccinated by the beginning of classes in last September, he found himself housebound.

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"It was tough," he said. "Probably one of the worst things I had to do was watch a game from home. It was really hard."

In what is presumed to be his final collegiate season, the junior entered as an All-America candidate and fairly high-round NFL prospect. He had led the Huskies in receiving with 18 catches for 258 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2020 during their pandemic-shortened season. He was Dylan Morris' go-to receiver.

However, Otton currently ranks fourth on the team in receptions, with 16 for 164 yards and just a lone score against Arkansas State. A drop-off in the numbers, especially just one six-pointer, isn't what he or anyone else expected. 

Cade Otton celebrates a touchdown against Arkansas State.

Cade Otton celebrates his lone TD of the season with Terrell Bynum.

He went from focus player to couch spectator, trying to manage his inactivity as he best that he could. 

"I like had our play-call sheet out and was trying to see what we were doing, and watching our tight ends and stuff," he said. "It was like watching film, only it was our guys. It was pretty unique. I'm glad it's over."

So Otton and his teammates find themselves in the Arizona desert tonight, looking for a football oasis.

The 31-game starter admits to having done a lot of reflection recently over these Husky tough times and how to pull out of them. He says the approach is fairly simply, involving hard work and a belief in what you're doing. 

The winner expects to win again.

"As a team, we've got to get back to basics," Otton said. "I still believe this rather deeply that we have a really talented team. We have a lot of really good players and we can be a lot better than we are right now."

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