By David Pan Weekly Herald sports editor
BOTHELL — Anyone who thinks that playing football at Lynnwood High School is a dead-end proposition should take a cue from Andrew Basham.
Earlier this summer, the incoming all-league senior lineman took a major step toward achieving the dream of just about every player who puts on a uniform – he verbally agreed to play football at a Division I school – in Basham’s case, the University of Washington, his first choice.
“It was a big relief off my shoulders,” Basham said of his decision. “It kind of showed a lot of players that I was the real deal.”
Basham is the second Lynnwood player in recent years to continue his football career at a top-notch Division I school. Geoff Meinken, a 2009 graduate, is now playing for Stanford. Basham and Meinken moved to the college ranks despite being on teams that struggled in the Western Conference 3A. The Royals have gone 6-24 the last three years and were 4-34 during the four years Meinken was at Lynnwood.
Basham hopes current and future Royals will be inspired by what he and Meinken have achieved.
“It’s nice,” Basham said. “It shows that Lynnwood is not hopeless. It really sets the tone. It shows people that they have something to follow. That’s kind of why I came here.”
First-year Lynnwood head coach Adam Fermstad isn’t surprised Basham is headed to a Division I program. Of all the players he observed at the high school level, Fermstad places Basham among his all-time top 3.
“He has the presence on the field where teams have to actively game plan against him because if you game plan toward him, most of the time it’s not going to end up going your way,” said Fermstad, who was an assistant coach with the Royals last season. “That’s something real special. The fact that he’s still able to be a team leader and bring guys up, maybe not quite to his level because he’s pretty talented, but he’s able to bring guys up to a level they didn’t know they had.”
A quality that sets Basham apart from most linemen is his speed. Despite being 6-foot-3 and weighing anywhere from 295 to 305 pounds, Basham is one of the team’s fastest players.
“It’s crazy,” Fermstad said. “You wouldn’t expect a guy of that size to come out and really have the acceleration and speed that he has. It’s real special to see that.”
Fermstad has Basham penciled in at left tackle on offense and still is debating on how to use his all-league lineman on defense.
“A guy like him, he has the capability of turning the tide in whatever he does,” Fermstad said.
The coach hasn’t decided whether to put Basham at tackle or one of the outside positions. Lynnwood will be playing a 3-4 defense.
“Regardless, wherever we put him in, we know that he’s going to be able to make a strong impact,” Fermstad said.
For his senior season, Basham is looking to elevate his game on and off the field.
“I really want to focus not so much on my physical aspects but more of my mental aspects and leadership,” said Basham, who will be a captain for the second year. But if he were to pick a goal on the field, it would be to break the Lynnwood sack record. He still is doing research, trying to figure out what the current record is.
Fermstad saw a more assertive Basham during the offseason. Basham is talking more with his teammates.
“Last year he definitely was a leader,” Fermstad said. “It was more leading by example. In the offseason, he’s definitely gotten more verbal with the guys and with the coaches of what he thinks he’s capable of and how he wants to help the team.”
Football isn’t the only thing on Basham’s agenda his senior year. The Royals standout took first place in the shot put at the Class 3A track and field championships. This year Lynnwood moved up to 4A, which means stiffer competition in the event, a welcome challenge for Basham.
“There are guys throwing just as far as me if not farther,” he said.
As for the football team’s move into the Wesco 4A South Division, Basham sees the Royals as being a bit of a wildcard in the playoff race.
“I think of us kind of like the New York Giants or the 49ers,” Basham said. “I think we have a lot of good traits here. I don’t think coach has to do much to put us in the right direction. I think we have a lot of good assets.”