As the Apple Cup ended, tight end Cade Otton went riding by on a scooter, his left foot encased in a boot. Not far behind him, edge rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui trudged slowly to the tunnel at Husky Stadium, alone in his thoughts. Out on the field, cornerback Trent McDuffie looked emotional while a hugging friend, as if saying good bye to the place.
These were all Huskies holding remaining college football eligibility but likely headed to the NFL. They all envisioned a much glorious ending to their University of Washington football careers.
Total team upheaval with Jimmy Lake's firing combined with underperforming players and an extraordinary spate of injuries helped turn the Huskies into a 4-8 team incapable of winning over the final month. During the UW's 40-13 Apple Cup loss to Washington State, the sidelined talent for the Huskies was difficult to ignore.
Otton, who was the All-Pac-12 tight end in 2020, played in just eight games this season, twice sent the sidelines by intrusions on his health. Besides the foot injury that robbed him of two games, he dealt with a bout of COVID-19 that took away two more.
Considered an All-America candidate in the preseason, the junior from Tumwater, Washington, finished with 29 receptions for 250 yards and a lone touchdown. For the most part, he piled up greater numbers over the four-game pandemic season, finishing with 18 catches for 258 yards and 3 scores.
Asked about Otton's status before the Apple Cup, interim coach Bob Gregory declined, saying he didn't want to make any pregame personnel information available to the Cougars. But he knew the tight end was done.
On Sunday, Otton received the Guy Flaherty Award at the annual team awards banquet, naming him as the Huskies' most inspirational player, which was voted on by the players. It most likely was a parting gift.
Tupuola-Fetui, another first-team All-Pac-12 player selection in 2020, played in just five games, starting three, after recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon and having surgery, and going out with a different malady. He took an upper-body hit against Arizona State that either left him with a muscular issue or a concussion. In most cases, the school doesn't detail injuries.
ZTF finished with 8 tackles in his short stint, only one of which was a sack. The season before over four games, the sophomore outside linebacker rang up 13 tackles, a resounding 7 of which were sacks, with 3 of them resulting in forced fumbles. The Huskies could have used that prior firepower from him.
Another player greatly shortchanged this season was sophomore running back Richard Newton, who started the first three games and played a single play in another that led to a knee injury and him having surgery. In what was supposed to be a big comeback season for him, Newton rushed just 39 times for 138 yards and a lone touchdown. This was the guy who scored 11 times in 2019.
Sophomore linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio, a second-team Pac-12 pick, played in just six games before missing the final six after suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery. He still finished as the team's third-highest tackler with 51, after logging 47 in four games the year before.
Offensive tackle Jaxson Kirkland, cornerback Kyler Gordon, nickelback Bookie Radley-Hiles, Otton, ZTF and McDuffie are all players with eligibility remaining who likely have played or watched their final Husky game and will enter the NFL draft.
At Sunday's annual team banquet, Husky running back Sean McGrew, the sixth-year senior from Torrance, California, who led the Huskies with 434 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns, was selected the offensive MVP.
McDuffie, the three-year starting cornerback and sophomore from Westminster, California, earned defensive MVP honors, while sophomore safety Dominique Hampton from Glendale, Arizona, was named special-teams MVP.
Sophomore linebacker Jackson Sirmon from Brentwood, Tennessee, shared the Chuck Niemi Big Hit award with sophomore safety Cam Williams of Bakersfield, California, while junior safety Alex Cook from Sacramento accepted the Earle T. Glant Tough Husky award.
Sixth-year senior Luke Wattenberg, from Trabuco Canyon, California, and the starting center for the past two seasons, was named John P. Angel offensive lineman of the year, while sophomore defensive tackle Tuli Letuligasenoa from Concord, California, was selected the L. Walt Rising defensive lineman of the year.
Sophomore inside linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala, the Federal Way, Washington, product, who returned from an Achilles tendon rupture to finish out the season, received the Don James perseverance award.
Freshman linebacker Carson Bruener from Redmond, Washington, and freshman wide receiver Jalen McMillan from Fresno, California, shared the Travis Spring most outstanding freshman award. Fellow freshman wide receiver Ja'Lynn Polk from Lufkin, Texas, was the Husky Fever 12th man of the year.
The Bob Jarvis offensive scout team award went to quarterback Cam Sirmon from Missoula, Montana, the Mark Drennan defensive scout honor was given to redshirt freshman linebacker Drew Fowler from Bellevue, Washington, and the Brian Stapp special-teams scout team award went to sophomore linebacker Ben Hines from Snohomish, Washington.
For the complete list of Husky award winners, playing, academic or otherwise, use this link.
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