The University of Washington football program carefully chooses which players it will sit in front of the media. It often has to do with leadership qualities rather than the news of the day.
For Michigan week, sophomore wide receiver Giles Jackson would have been a natural storyline considering he played for the Wolverines last year. Not going to happen.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Dylan Morris, coming off the roughest game of his brief college career in Saturday night's stunning 13-7 loss to Montana, would have been another logical person to tactfully ask a few questions. Again, not available.
Instead, the Huskies brought out Cade Otton, the veteran tight end who ably fills the role as the voice of reason for the Huskies. After hearing his soothing tones, you remember that this team still has talented players on its roster, plenty of ambition and at least 11 more games to play; most of all, that the sky hasn't completely fallen in, even though it feels that way.
While amped-up fans continue to call for Jimmy Lake's head, write outraged letters to the school and force their Husky websites to monitor their own nonstop vitriolic posts, Otton lowered the noise a little.
He's the grandson of one of the most successful football coaches at any level to come through Washington state, and he knows the ebbs and flows of the game as well as anyone.
He's the guy you want in there when you're trying to overcome a 21-0 halftime deficit to Utah at a Husky Stadium without fans, with the clock is ticking down to zero and you need to pull a rabbit out of the hat.
On Tuesday, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound junior from Tumwater, Washington, sat down and calmly looked into the eyes of the reporters seated in front of him and the big lens of the camera positioned at the back of the room.
While acknowledging there was a problem — some of us have called the Montana outcome the worst defeat in school history — he acted as if he was negotiating a peace treaty and stressed calm.
"Everyone knows last week wasn't good enough from all of us," Otton said. "Everyone is taking accountability. No one's pointing fingers or anything. We're moving on."
The team leader said the Huskies had a great practice on Tuesday, his words, from the players to the coaches. He was impressed by everyone's response to the deep wound that was delivered to the program.
He said the healing began almost immediately in the locker room following college football's most shocking score reported last weekend.
"Obviously, everyone was upset," Otton said. "We came together and said we aren't going to let this ruin our season."
The next step, however, is further complicated by the fact that the Huskies have to play at Michigan, a storied place where previous UW football teams have won just one of four games, where you have to play in the nation's largest stadium, which is an added challenge. It matters little that neither team is ranked. This is still a marquee match-up.
Otton has watched a replay of the Washington-Michigan Rose Bowl game from 30 years ago that led to the Huskies being crowned a national champion. He recently listened to a presentation from Mike Gastineau, author of the book "Fear No Man," which chronicled that 1991 unbeaten Husky season. He feels the great sense of accomplishment that so few get to experience.
Instead of lingering on the cascading despair of that season-opening loss, Otton has let the magnitude of the coming game consume his thoughts. He feels like the schools have built their own little rivalry from their past meetings, most coming in the Rose Bowl. He's eager to be tested in a place that resembles the Pasadena football amphitheater for its sheer magnitude.
He wants to move from an unhealthy spotlight to one of building excitement. He called football a metaphor for life, where you have to learn how to mix adversity with success. This is one of those opportunities, to go from one spectrum to the other. No matters how it turns out, they won't be alone.
"You know the eyes of the country are going to be on this game," he reminded.
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