Huskies are happy Utah overlooked Cort Dennison
Washington linebacker Cort Dennison grew up near the Utah campus but when the Utes wouldn't offer him a scholarship, he happily accepted an offer to join the Huskies.
Seattle Times staff reporter
UW @ Utah, 4 p.m., ROOT
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The football coaches at the University of Utah didn't have to look far to find Cort Dennison.
His high school, Judge Memorial, is "like a block-and-a-half" away from the Utah campus, Dennison said.
He spent many a Saturday afternoon as a kid attending Utah games, happily joining the sea of red that is Rice-Eccles Stadium.
But when Dennison went looking for a school at which to play football, the hometown Utes weren't necessarily picking up the phone on the first ring.
Despite being all-state as a tight end and named Utah athlete of the year by The Salt Lake Tribune, Dennison's only offer from Utah was to come as a preferred walk-on.
He instead accepted a full scholarship from Washington shortly after Kent Baer, the UW defensive coordinator at the time, made the offer. The senior middle linebacker is a team captain and leads UW in tackles this season with 34.
Dennison gets a chance to show Utah what it missed when the Huskies play the Utes Saturday in Salt Lake City, a game that will kick off at 4 p.m. Seattle time.
He insisted Monday, however, he has no hard feelings toward his hometown school.
"No," he said. "It's just, I don't know what it is, but you know sometimes you get looked at as an underdog, but those kind of things just motivate me, and I like when people doubt me or whatever the case may be. It motivates me to do better. It is what it is."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday, "We certainly knew of him, but he ended up at Washington and he's doing a nice job."
Whittingham didn't shed much light on why Utah didn't offer Dennison a scholarship, saying he couldn't recall the exact circumstances.
Dennison said that despite the ties to Utah, it wasn't necessarily a slam dunk he would have gone there — he also has relatives in the Seattle area whom he visited often as a kid, which helped make UW appealing.
"I grew up going to games (at Utah), but I kept all my options open and I ended up going to a place that I love," he said. "When I was going to games, yeah, I wore the red. Now I wear the purple, so it doesn't matter."
Dennison said he'll see lots of familiar faces in the stands, including high-school friends who are now part of Utah's student section, The MUSS (taken from the school's fight song, it stands for Mighty Utah Student Section).
Dennison, though, has gone through the homecoming ritual before, when the Huskies opened last season at Brigham Young, and says he knows he can't get caught up in it.
"I realize too that it's just a game, no matter where we play, it's still football and we have a great task on our hands, and I gotta focus on the game more than distractions of family and stuff coming to the game," he said.
More of a priority this week is getting healthy. Dennison is dealing with knee swelling that arose late last week and requires antibiotics.
Dennison said the knee "is improving" and that nothing would have held him out of the Huskies' victory over California last week — or this week.
Good thing for the Huskies, as Dennison had 11 tackles and two pass breakups, one coming in the fourth quarter to stop Cal on a fourth-down attempt.
"I knew I was going to play," he said. "I'm not going to sit out of a game, it's just I didn't know how healthy I would be. It was really sore when I woke up but the trainers did a really good job on Saturday getting me ready to go."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
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