Not a Monday goes by during the football season that Marques Tuiasosopo doesn’t show up to have lunch with the media after coach Rick Neuheisel’s press conference in the Don James Center.
It’s one of the duties of the quarterback to answer a seemingly unending number of questions about not only football, but about life.
Tuiasosopo does this with an ease of manner that makes it appear as if he almost enjoys this constant probing into every facet of his being.
Truth be told, he probably does.
He’ll hang around for an hour and, between bites of a growing-cold mound of food, fill reporters’ notebooks.
He’s an easy kid to like, delightful, mannerly, respectful, attentive, thoughtful, patient to a fault. He’s obviously had some good upbringing.
“I’ve been taught to treat people the way I want to be treated and to respect my elders,” he said. “I try not to burn too many bridges.”
As good a kid as he is, Tuiasosopo isn’t perfect.
“I’m just like everyone else,” he said. “I have faults.”
“I’m pretty stubborn,” he said. “I think I’m right a lot of times. You can ask any of my friends. They’ll say, ‘This person did something,’ and I’ll say, ‘No, it was this person.’ I’ll fight it forever.”
That stubbornness is borne out on the football field. He refuses to give up. Witness the several fourth quarter comebacks he engineered this season to get the Huskies a 10-1 record and a Jan. 1 meeting with Purdue in the Rose Bowl.
His recalcitrance got him in trouble during one spring practice. On an option play, he was supposed to pitch the ball but instead he hung onto it and cut upfield.
“Coach Gilbertson (the offensive coordinator) asked me why I did that,” he said. “I argued with him. That’s not a good thing to do. He told me off. From then on , coach was always right.”
Any other so-called faults? Poor house-keeping tendencies?
“I’m a neat freak,” he said. “I’m definitely into cleanliness. That’s from growing up around my dad. He’s a neat freak, too.”
Except on the football field, where Manu, a defensive lineman in college and the NFL, marked many a quarterback’s and running back’s jersey with grass stains after dropping them to the ground.
Marques’ competitive zeal extends beyond the football field.
“I hate losing,” he said, “and I lose a lot in Nintendo. I go against (backup quarterback) Cody (Pickett). He’s figured out the game. I never get the ball. He onside kicks every time. He beats me 80-0.”
Tuiasosopo has built a healthy legacy, as the all-time UW career leader in total offense, but what is more important to him is what this team has accomplished.
“I hope I was able to help get back that spirit of Husky football, that excitement,” he said. “If that’s the case, then I’ll be happy.”
None of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for his resolve to play quarterback in college. Several schools, including UCLA (his father’s alma mater), California, Notre Dame and Colorado, wanted him to play defensive back. The Colorado coach at the time was a fellow named Neuheisel.
Washington, of course, recruited Tuiasosopo to play quarterback. When Neuheisel replaced Jim Lambright as the Husky coach, he was thrilled to inherit a player with Marques’ ability to throw and run the ball rather than try to intercept it.
If there was one game that marked a turning point in the resurgence of Washington football, Tuiasosopo said it would have to be the 31-24 win over Colorado a year ago.
“It was a huge game at the time,” he said “not only because we were 0-2 but because it was a nationally known opponent. That was the first game where we believed we were a pretty good team. From that time on it’s been different around here. We knew we could compete against good teams.”
From that time on, the Huskies have put together a 17-4 record. And they will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1993.
Tuiasosopo’s counterpart in that game will be Drew Brees, a tremendous talent who will make some team a nice first-round pick in the NFL draft next spring.
The two quarterbacks got to know one another during a football camp last summer in Southern California.
Did they ever imagine that they would be meeting in a bowl game a few months later?
“That’s the last thing we said to one another, ‘See you in the Rose Bowl,’” Tuiasosopo recalled. “We kind of laughed when we said it.”
It’s doubtful they’ll be able to squeeze in a round of golf during Rose Bowl week but if they were, Tuiasosopo could predict the winner.
“We played some golf last summer,” he said. “He can swing a club a little bit.
“Me? No. I shoot like 200. I still slice it.”
He could live with one more slice: through Purdue’s defense on New Year’s Day.
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