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Originally published January 30, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 30, 2008 at 2:41 PM

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Where they are now: Some fall to tragedy, others rise to success

When Washington won the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day 2001, the football team's roster listed 107 players. Seven years later, those players'...

Seattle Times staff reporters

When Washington won the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day 2001, the football team's roster listed 107 players.

Seven years later, those players' paths have diverged. Some sell pharmaceuticals, or real estate, or trucking services. Some have become police officers — in Anchorage or Los Angeles. One works for the Department of Homeland Security. Others hold jobs as a UPS driver or chiropractor, financial adviser, high-school teacher, waiter.

Some members of the Rose Bowl team have struggled since leaving the UW. At least five served jail time last year or had warrants out for their arrest. Others have gone on to graduate school or have started businesses or sports charities.

Curtis Williams and Anthony Vontoure died in 2002 — Williams from a football injury suffered during the Rose Bowl year, Vontoure in a struggle with sheriff's deputies in California.

Last year, a third player died. Matt Lingley's work truck went up in flames after veering off the highway and hitting a tree about 20 miles west of Olympia. He was 26.

Some of the players now coach football, in high school or college. Some still play the game — in the NFL, or in the Arena Football League, or in Canada.

After four good years with the Indianapolis Colts, defensive end Larry Tripplett in 2006 signed an $18 million, five-year contract with the Buffalo Bills.

Husky quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo played six seasons for the Oakland Raiders but started only two games. He's now a backup for the New York Jets.

A rundown of the 2000 Huskies' offensive line — one of the team's real strengths — shows the different directions players have taken.

Matt Rogers became an "American Idol" contestant — finishing 11th in the show's third season — and now hosts a show on the Discovery Channel called "Really Big Things." He introduces viewers to the world's largest dump truck, or trash compactor, or binocular telescope.

Being on the Rose Bowl team helped get him started in entertainment. "Everyone's a football fan," Rogers says, even in Hollywood. "People are dying for leaders, for people who know how to win, and in that way it helped me."

With the help of a Seattle police detective who once played ball at the UW, Matt Fraize became a police officer. He now works for the Anchorage Police Department.

What does Fraize remember most from the 2000 season? "It was my senior year, my fifth year.... We didn't have half the talent as in years before. But it was the perfect example of a team coming together."

Dominic Daste has been an assistant coach at the University of Montana for five years. The 2000 season was Daste's fifth and final year at the UW. He had worked his way back from an injury in which he sheared the cartilage connecting his leg and right ankle. After doctors put a 14-inch plate in his leg and 10 screws in his ankle, Daste decided to keep playing.

At Montana, Daste coaches tight ends and serves as the team's recruiting coordinator. Every day when he wakes up, his ankle is sore. But he takes a few minutes to stretch and work the stiffness out.

He suffers no regret: "The day after the Rose Bowl, I could have had my ankle amputated and I would have been happy."

Chad Ward and Kyle Benn both sell pharmaceuticals — Ward for GlaxoSmithKline, Benn for Pfizer. Their jobs require lots of travel and long hours.

"I think the industry has recognized that in any kind of sales job, athletes will work hard," Ward says. "What most people consider hard work, athletes think is easy. No calling in sick."

Benn says football has provided him with an invaluable network. "Everything I've done is through someone I know."

Jason Simonson was a walk-on at the UW. In five years he played only one down that wasn't in mop-up time — and on that play the opposing player dropped back in pass coverage, leaving Simonson with no one to block.

"I sat there, with the nicest-looking pass protection, but I never touched a soul," Simonson says.

These days, Simonson teaches science at Sumner High School and helps coach the football team. He could have played more at a smaller school, but Simonson doesn't regret his choice to play at the UW.

"It is the greatest sport you can ever play or be a part of, and that's why I'm still coaching. Nothing in life is so grand. It's football, what can I say? And on top of that, it's Husky football."

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com; Ken Armstrong: 206-464-3730 or karmstrong@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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