By Christian Caple The News Tribune
HONOLULU — Andrew Hudson and DiAndre Campbell could not look forward to visiting paradise.
Told by the previous coaching staff that they would not be returning to the Washington Huskies football team for their fifth years of eligibility, Hudson and Campbell figured they’d be playing somewhere else by now, far from Aloha Stadium, where the Huskies begin the Chris Petersen era Saturday with a 7:30 p.m. game against Hawaii.
Instead, the two are not only still on the roster, their atop the depth chart at their respective positions — Campbell at receiver, Hudson at defensive end — visiting the beach and snapping photos and preparing to start another season as Pac-12 football players.
“It’s just a true test of resilience,” said Campbell, a wide receiver from Oakland. “Just realizing a true testament to everything we’ve done, all the hard work we’ve put in doesn’t go unnoticed.”
He’s talking about himself and Hudson, a defensive end, but also about Taz Stevenson, another member of the four-man “suddenly senior” group who won a starting job this season — just not for the Huskies. Stevenson, a native of Mililani, Hawaii, transferred back home and is listed atop the Rainbow Warriors’ depth chart at safety.
Stevenson hasn’t played in a game since 2012, sitting out the entire 2013 season because of an injury.
“That’s awesome. I’m proud of him,” Hudson said. “We came in here together, roommates, so it’s cool to see that he’s over there to start and really just impacting that program. I’ve thought about it and I’m excited to see him play. It’s been a while since he was out there playing football, and I look forward to a great game, for sure, between the three of us.”
Said Campbell: “I couldn’t be more happy for Taz. These are guys I came in with. We were all in the same situation about eight, nine months ago, so to see us where we are now is a great thing.”
They were told in November (along with linebacker Jamaal Kearse, whose football career is over) that the regular-season finale against Washington State would be their final home game. They were introduced along with the rest of UW’s senior class as part of that day’s Senior Day festivities, assuming that was the final time they would run out of the Husky Stadium tunnel.
But head coach Steve Sarkisian’s departure to USC opened the door for their return. Campbell said he was told during bowl-week preparations that Petersen, newly hired, wanted to meet with him in his office.
“He said, ‘I’ve heard nothing but great things about you. But that’s all hearsay. I want to see for myself, evaluate you through the spring and then see where it goes from there. If we like you, we’ll keep you. If not, we’ll help you go somewhere else,’” Campbell said. “It was a win-win for me.”
Hudson had a similar conversation, and due to some departures along the Huskies’ defensive line, he was relied upon as the first-team defensive end immediately during spring practice. He held onto the position throughout fall camp.
Campbell filled a void at receiver. With the departure of Damore’ea Stringfellow, and Kasen Williams still working his way back from a nasty leg injury, Campbell, at 6-foot-2 and 206 pounds, was the Huskies’ only big-bodied receiver during spring, and practiced well enough in camp to earn a starting nod against Hawaii.
Petersen described Campbell as “exactly the type of guy we want in our locker room,” and has offered similar praise of Hudson.
They both hope to improve upon disappointing seasons in 2013, when Campbell caught just three passes and Hudson rarely saw the field.
“I definitely didn’t come back just to do what I did last year,” Hudson said.
But both insist that instead of taking a vengeful, I’ll-show-him attitude toward Sarkisian and the previous staff, they’re simply grateful for the chance to remain Huskies.
“I’ve been given all this, and let’s put it to use, let’s work, let’s see what it amounts to,” Hudson said. “That’s my mindset in it, at least. I don’t know if I’ll see those coaches again. Maybe on TV. It’s whatever.”
“That constant belief in myself, it was regardless of what they may have said,” Campbell said. “I’m glad with the opportunity to go out there and not just show the coaches from the old staff, but show the whole country what I can do.”