Huskies’ winless 2008 team had plenty of future NFL talent
Three players on Washington’s 0-12 team of 2008 will play Sunday at CenturyLink Field. Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse and Tampa Bay linebacker Mason Foster and defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim are among the six Huskies from that team who have started in the NFL.
Seattle Times staff reporter
It was a question that momentarily stumped Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who is part of the answer: Name the six members of the 2008 Washington Huskies who have started games in the NFL this season.
Kearse easily rattled off the first five — himself, quarterback Jake Locker, linebackers Mason Foster and Donald Butler and defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim — before pausing and correctly nailing Alameda Ta’amu as the final member of the group.
“A lot of people didn’t think we had talent,’’ Kearse said. “But we had talent at UW, and with the people that we have in the league right now, it shows.’’
There’s a good reason, though, people at the time didn’t think UW had a lot of talent. That’s the same year the Huskies went 0-12, the worst record in school history, which led to the firing of Tyrone Willingham and the hiring of Steve Sarkisian.
Half of that pick-six of 2008 Huskies who have started games this season will be on display Sunday at CenturyLink Field when the Seahawks host Tampa Bay. Kearse has two starts this season and will see his role expand with injured Sidney Rice out for the season. For Tampa Bay, Foster will start at weakside linebacker, Te’o-Nesheim at defensive end. (Another former Husky, Dashon Goldson, who played at UW from 2004-06, starts at safety for the Bucs, though he didn’t make the trip because of a knee injury.)
Locker, meanwhile, is beginning to thrive in his second full season as Tennessee’s starting quarterback, and Butler is in his third season as a starter at linebacker for the Chargers (though he is currently sidelined with a groin injury). Ta’amu has started three games at defensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals.
Three other players from that team are on NFL rosters — running back Chris Polk, who has seen action in a reserve role this year with the Eagles, defensive end Everrette Thompson, who is on the injured list of the Cardinals, and offensive lineman Senio Kelemete, who is on the Saints’ practice squad.
“It’s cool,’’ said Kearse. “I mean, especially seeing those guys who were on the 0-12 team to be able to get out there. It’s cool to see guys I played with go out there and shine.’’
Look deeper into the numbers, though, and it also illustrates the vagaries and complexities of major-college football.
The six 2008 Huskies who have started games this season in the NFL have combined for 106 career starts.
As those players trudged through the winless season, which bottomed out with a double-overtime loss to an equally woeful Washington State team, there were many stories noting the quick fall of the program. The Huskies had been 11-1 in 2000, winning the Rose Bowl and finishing ranked No. 3 in the nation.
By the end of the month, though, the number of career NFL starts from the 2008 team could surpass that of the Huskies who played during the 2000 season.
Ten players from the Huskies’ 2000 team later played in the NFL. Only two, though, developed as consistent starters, defensive tackle Larry Tripplett and tight end Jerramy Stevens.
Five other players who saw action for the 2000 Huskies started at least one game. Add it up, and the combined total of NFL starts from UW’s last Rose Bowl team is just 116.
In fact, two future successful NFL players sat out the 2000 season as redshirts at UW, offensive tackle Khalif Barnes and defensive tackle Terry “Tank’’ Johnson.
Johnson started 37 games. Barnes, the only player who was on the 2000 UW roster in any capacity who remains in the NFL, still is going strong, with 94 career starts.
The 2000 Huskies, of course, had a lot going for them, like depth, a stable coaching situation, an incredible leader in quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo and, in general, overall good health. (Locker and Polk were among of a handful of key UW players who missed a significant part of the 2008 season.)
The presence of Kearse, Foster and Te’o-Nesheim at the Clink on Sunday makes clear that merely looking at the 0-12 record might be a little misleading when assessing the 2008 Huskies.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com. On Twitter @bcondotta