The University of Washingtons senior linebacker has already had two memorable moments to last a lifetime, having celebrated a win over third-ranked USC and taking back the Apple Cup at Husky Stadium. But now Butler wants one more.
Not just for himself, but for the UW seniors.
Weve been through a lot together, he said after the Huskies beat rival Washington State 30-0 in Saturdays Apple Cup game. Were just trying to go out with a win.
If last week was all about the holidays and eating a little baked Cougar, this one is all about the seniors.
Fourteen Husky players will exhaust their eligibility after Saturdays game against California. And theyre hoping to go out in style.
Its a unique group that includes only three members from the 2006 recruiting class (Butler, Paul Homer and Danny Morovick), four who have been at UW five years from the 2005 class (Darrion Jones, Ben Ossai, Morgan Rosborough and Daniel Teo-Nesheim), two former walk-ons (Josh Gage and T.J. Poe), two transfers (Nick Scott and Jason Wells), a 27-year-old former baseball player (safety Tripper Johnson), a sixth-year senior (linebacker Trenton Tuiasosopo) and a local star who returned for his senior season after being kicked off the team last year (linebacker E.J. Savannah).
Its also a class that has endured some of the least on-field success in program history. The fifth-year seniors have already lost 44 games; the seniors with four years of experience have lost 35. Only last years seniors, with 47 losses in a five-year span, have suffered more defeats in a Huskies uniform.
What they envisioned when they came here obviously hasnt happened, said Steve Sarkisian, the third head coach that some of the seniors have seen at UW. But I think we have given these guys, and theyve earned, some great moments in their senior year so far. These are moments theyre going to have for a lifetime.
All they want this weekend, when they play their final game, is one more.
Its kind of heartbreaking, because I dont want to leave, said Jones, a defensive end from near San Jose. But Im going to enjoy doing it one last time. Its going to be emotional.
On a team that included 18 underclassmen among the 22 starters in Saturdays Apple Cup victory, the younger players are dedicating this week to the Huskies senior class.
Seeing those guys go is going to be real tough, junior linebacker Mason Foster said. This whole week is going to be tough because its our last time playing with them. Its a crazy little week, but we want to send them out with a bang.
Some of the seniors have more on the line than just memories this weekend.
Teo-Nesheim is two sacks away from breaking the 25-year-old school record for career sacks (28.0, by Ron Holmes). Butler is on pace to finish the season as UWs leading tackler. And Jones, who did not have a career sack until two-and-a-half weeks ago, is hoping to extend a streak of two consecutive games with at least one.
More than anything, the UW seniors are just trying to put a finishing touch on their careers and pass the baton to their teammates.
Weve all grown close and bonded because of what weve been through, said Jones, one of five players left from a 13-man recruiting class of 2005 that also included Savannah, James Hasty and Johnny Durocher. And we wanted to turn it around.
Our (2009) record might not reflect that, but in the upcoming years were going to be great. And we feel like weve been a part of that.
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