Dante Pettis hadn’t attended a track-and-field practice since high school, and he made it to only one with the University of Washington team before making his collegiate debut in the long jump at last month’s Trojan Invitational in Los Angeles.
So the senior receiver says his mark of 23 feet, 10 ¼ inches in that March 18 meet “wasn’t really my best at all.” His footwork and timing are rusty. But it was a fine enough effort considering how long it had been since Pettis competed in that event, and it was tops on the team and the sixth-best jump among individuals at the meet.
Pettis, who won the CIF Southern Section Division 3 championship as a senior at Junipero Serra High School in 2014 with a leap of 24 feet, 7 inches, said he scratched on his first two attempts, then had to play it safe to make sure he qualified for more jumps.
That wound up as his best jump of the day, though he says he can do better.
“I only had one practice, so my steps weren’t really down right,” Pettis said. “I’m just excited to get my steps down, so I can actually jump instead of being worried about the board.”
Pettis, who will enter the 2017 football season as UW’s No. 1 receiving target after catching 15 touchdown passes last year, said some schools recruited him to play football and compete in track and field.
It’s something he’s always wanted to try. And when he asked Chris Petersen during his recruitment if he could some day attempt both, the Huskies football coach told him “that’s something we can work out.”
Pettis isn’t quite sure what that will look like, saying of his participation in track practices that “we’re going to have to figure something out. I would like to, but obviously, I’m here for football. So, whatever Coach Pete says.”
VEA ‘THE BEST RECRUIT’
Asked last week about his decision to return to UW rather than enter the NFL draft, fourth-year defensive lineman Vita Vea made it seem as if there was nothing to decide.
“I never really had a decision of leaving,” said Vea, who had been projected as a potential second-round pick before choosing to stay in school.
Regardless of how strongly Vea considered leaving, defensive line coach Ikaika Malloe is happy the 6-foot-5, 344-pound native of Milpitas, California, is still on the roster.
“That’s probably the best recruit we could have gotten right there,” Malloe said. “That was huge recruiting on his part, his family’s part. For us, it just puts a lot of pressure on us making sure that why he stayed, it pays off for him. Obviously he has a bright future ahead of him. For him to come back we have to make sure I’m constantly pushing him to get him to that next level so that when he takes that step, he’ll be ready and prepared to go.”
The second-team All-Pac-12 lineman finished last season with 39 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks. Malloe wants to see Vea enhance his role as a leader now that he is among the Huskies’ most experienced linemen.
“He’s taking the next step in terms of leadership,” Malloe said, “but in terms of skill, he’s got some stuff. … He’s got some meat on the bone that he still needs to do, as surprising as that sounds.”
Petersen said Vea’s decision to return to school proves his maturity.
“It’s an instant gratification world, and everybody’s got to have it now, and everybody sees everything,” Petersen said, “and for a guy to step back and go, ‘Maybe it’s not time,’ that takes a mature guy.”
Petersen said junior quarterback Jake Browning is doing “perfect” in his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. Browning hasn’t done much throwing during UW’s practices so far. “Every day, we’re holding him back. Every day, he’s like, ‘I can throw more, I’d like to throw more.’ We’re fine. We’ll get there,” Petersen said.