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Originally published October 7, 2009 at 8:50 PM | Page modified October 7, 2009 at 11:31 PM

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Desmond Trufant is making a name at UW

From the Trufant household in Tacoma to the football field in Seattle, in two months Desmond has gone from untested freshman to maybe Washington's most dependable cornerback. Older brother Marcus plays for the Seahawks.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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He's mostly just trying to play football. But in the process Washington freshman cornerback Desmond Trufant is also giving proof to the theory that sports is a reflection of life.

"He has two older brothers, you know, you kind of get pushed around a little bit," said older brother and current Seattle Seahawk Marcus Trufant. "So he grew up quick."

From the Trufant household in Tacoma to the football field in Seattle, in two months Desmond has gone from untested freshman to maybe UW's most dependable cornerback.

Certainly, he was the most visible Saturday in South Bend as the Huskies battled Notre Dame every minute in a 37-30 overtime loss, returning a lateral for a touchdown, batting down two passes, and saving two touchdowns with last-gasp tackles.

"Whether he has good genes or whatever, that doesn't hurt," said UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt. "But he's a really good football player. He understands the game for a young guy."

Desmond Trufant has no problem crediting the gene pool for his success — middle brother Isaiah Trufant played at Eastern Washington and in the Arena Football League.

"It definitely helped because I've been watching them my whole life," he said. "So it was easier for me to get used to it. Ever since I've been growing up I was going to their games."

And he wanted to be like them, though only to a point.

While Marcus Trufant is one of the more beloved Cougars in recent history, a standout on the 2002 team that won the Pac-10 title and played in the Rose Bowl (the last non-USC team to officially win the Pac-10), Desmond didn't necessarily want to follow in his footsteps to Pullman.

"I grew up a Cougar fan, so it was a pull," he said. "But I just wanted to make my own name."

For a long time he wasn't sure it would necessarily be as a Husky, however. He was heavily recruited by former UW coach Tyrone Willingham, but as last year meandered to its 0-12 conclusion, was hesitant about coming to Washington, also having heavy interest from Arizona State and Colorado. But Sarkisian made Trufant one of his first priorities, and he committed quickly after taking a trip in January.

"I felt all the energy and wanted to come here," he said.

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Living in Tacoma helped him get a head start on his career as he made the drive up twice a week all summer to play with the veterans in informal workouts. Coaches heard early reports and penciled him in as one to watch.

Then came a hiccup when a sign language class he had taken at Wilson was disallowed by the NCAA Clearinghouse. He had to quickly take a Literature class to replace it, missing almost two weeks of practice in the process.

"I just had to keep a positive mindset," he said.

Within days of returning to practice he was running with the first unit — at 6-foot, 172 he's taller than most of the other Husky cornerbacks. And after coming off the bench in the first three games, he now looks like a permanent fixture as a starter, forcing older brother Marcus to root for the Huskies.

When Desmond returned a lateral 17 yards for a touchdown Saturday, Marcus said he had to "jump and scream a little bit. It was exciting to see little brother making it happen."

Not that he was surprised.

"He has always been a tough kid, and he's just showing it now," said Marcus. "His confidence along with his physical toughness, it's coming together."

What also helps is his speed, which ranks among the best on the UW defense, and was in evidence when he came from the other side of the field to push Notre Dame's Golden Tate out of bounds after a 77-yard pass and run on the first play of the second half Saturday. UND ended up kicking a field goal.

"My speed, that helps me a lot," said Desmond Trufant. "Sometimes I mess up mentally on the plays but my speed helps me."

Is he the fastest of the Trufants?

"Tough call, man," said Marcus. "Whoever wins the race is only going to win it by a step. My two younger brothers are pretty fast. I don't know if they see me as the old man now, so they might have a step on me. I don't know. But like I said, it will be close."

Notes

• Safety Nate Williams and WR D'Andre Goodwin again sat out practice Wednesday due to concussions suffered Saturday.

• Free safety Greg Walker suffered a twisted knee early in practice Saturday, and with Williams out and Justin Glenn having suffered a season-ending leg injury Saturday, that had UW going with a starting lineup of true freshman Nathan Fellner at free safety and junior Victor Aiyewa at strong safety throughout practice. Fellner, of Fresno, has played on special teams the last two weeks but has not seen any other action. Sarkisian said Walker's injury wasn't serious and wouldn't commit to who may or may not see action Saturday. Fellner is the grandson of former WSU and Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney.

• RB Johri Fogerson was absent for the second straight day with the flu and his status for Saturday is also uncertain. Demitrius Bronson would step in as the backup TB if Fogerson can't play Saturday.

• Sarkisian said the career of lineman Craig Noble is over due to a serious but not life-threatening heart condition. A native of Los Angeles, Noble was one of the more highly-regarded members of the Class of 2008 but had yet to see action, having been switched from defense to offense just a few weeks ago.

Reporter Danny O'Neil contributed to this story.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

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