Local roots help Wyoming coach recruit in state

Dave Christensen will be the first to admit that his name is not of the household variety of fellow Everett High School alumni like Dennis Erickson, Mike Price and Jim Lambright — even in and around his hometown.

And yet Christensen, who played football at the University of Washington for two years and later served one year as an assistant coach there, has been making some serious inroads as a recruiter in these parts.

Now in his fourth year as head coach at the University of Wyoming, Christensen has been using the roads to and from his home state as a well-traveled path to success. His Cowboys signed five players from Washington among the 21-man recruiting class that signed letters-of-intent Wednesday morning.

“It took a little time to figure out the caliber of player up there and the obvious fit here, but it’s gotten better and better for us each year,” Christensen said Wednesday. “Word’s starting to spread. And looking at this year’s class, it’s spreading more and more.”

This marks the third consecutive year that Wyoming — the other UW — has added multiple players from the state of Washington on Signing Day. Christensen went back to his home state to add two players to the Class of 2010, then brought in a pair of Snohomish County players — Edmonds-Woodway linebacker Zack Berg and Jackson kicker Daniel Sullivan — last February.

His 2012 crop may well be a new school record for players from Washington, which was a rarely-utilized part of the country before Christensen arrived in 2009. His latest class includes O’Dea defensive back Jayshawn Johnson, Federal Way running back D.J. May, Federal Way defensive lineman Uso Olive, Bothell wide receiver Trent Sewell and Kennedy quarterback Jason Thompson.

What makes this year’s recruiting class even more unique is that Christensen had to recruit at least one of the players away from Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies. Thompson, who is the younger brother of recent Huskies defensive lineman Everette Thompson, originally committed to Washington as a safety but later decided to go to Wyoming because Christensen was offering him a chance to play quarterback.

“He’s got a lot of intangibles I’ve seen in quarterbacks,” said Christensen, a former assistant at the University of Missouri. “The guys we brought in at Missouri, like Brad Smith and Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert, we always had quarterbacks who were athletic, who played with their feet and moved around but also had the intangibles you need as a quarterback. (Thompson) possessed those things.”

Christensen, a 1979 EHS graduate, virtually ignored his home state while working on the Missouri staff from 1997 through 2008. But shortly after arriving at Wyoming, he decided to make some roads into Washington and has proven to have plenty of success.

He gives most of the credit for his latest crop of Washington recruits to the addition of longtime Huskies assistant Chris Tormey. Christensen’s relationship with him goes back to 1980, when he was a UW player and Tormey was a graduate assistant for the Huskies. Tormey’s reputation as a recruiter was part of the allure in hiring him.

“He’s always been a phenomenal recruiter, and a tireless worker,” Christensen said. “So I knew that would always be a plus.”

Christensen, whose father, Al, and mother, Judy Brothen, live in Marysville, said bringing players from Washington to Wyoming hasn’t been as difficult as one might expect.

“It’s an easy sell,” he said of getting players from the Seattle area to move to Laramie, Wyo. “It’s a college town here. It’s very safe — there’s no crime, no gangs, no drugs — so you can concentrate on your education and on football. We’ve got the program on the rise, and it’s the only show in the state.”

In helping put on the best show in one state, Christensen has found success returning to another. The 51-year-old Wyoming coach has proved that you can, indeed, go home again.

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