University of Washington

As Rose Bowl approaches, Husky seniors feel careers coming to an end

Jake Browning’s initial arrival to Washington’s campus was low key.

Back then, there wasn’t an early signing period like the one that will take place on Wednesday. Instead of a national spectacle, Browning quietly showed up after the Huskies lost to Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl.

And then he got to work.

“I didn’t really have anything exciting,” Browning said. “I had a workout that day.”

Browning always knew he wanted to come to UW. He also knew he wanted to play as a true freshman. If he didn’t arrive early, he said, he’s not sure that would’ve happened.

Linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven had more of a signing day experience than Browning, but it was still more a formality for him. He committed to the Huskies in September and never wavered. Even though other schools kept coming after him, Burr-Kirven shut down the process as quickly as possible.

He didn’t care for the recruitment phone calls, and he already knew where he wanted to be. But even now, he’s not quite sure how former Husky assistant Chris Strausser found him at Sacred Heart Prep in California.

Burr-Kirven knew of one player who was recruited out of Sacred Heart Prep to play at Hawaii. Other than that, Burr-Kirven was the school’s first major recruit. He was a three-star prospect and not the highlight of the class, but the nation’s leading tackler always knew he could perform at the Pac-12 level.

“I think it’s always good to have a chip on your shoulder whether you’re a highly recruited guy or not,” he said. “When people doubt you, people don’t think you’re going to be good and you’re kind of the filler end of the class, I think that kind of stuff can drive you. At the end of the day, it comes down to your mindset.”

Browning and Burr-Kirven were among several members of the UW’s senior class that met with the media on Tuesday. With the early signing period approaching, they spent some time looking back at the start of their careers and even more time discussing the end.

The group will play its final game in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State on New Year’s Day.

Offensive linemen Kaleb McGary compared his career to a walk down a long road. He didn’t quite realize how far he’d come until he looked back. It went quickly, he said, but slowly at the same time.

Linebacker Tevis Bartlett agreed with that assessment. It’s the activities outside of football that have made everything sink in: Moving out of his apartment, graduating last week with Burr-Kirven and several other teammates.

The Huskies had nearly two weeks away from regular football activities while they wrapped up finals. Now, when Bartlett looks at the schedule, he realizes he only has a handful of practices to go.

“It’s kind of crazy to look back and go, ‘It’s almost over,’” he said. “The time here is almost over. It’s coming fast, whether you like it or not, it’s coming.”

There’s a balance, he said, between enjoying the preparation and all the activities that accompany the Rose Bowl and focusing on the game.

“You have time to appreciate after,” he said, “especially if we win. It will be a good feeling.”

Said running back Myles Gaskin: “It’s not super just football, football, football, football. At the end of the day, I think that’s what makes it fun the fact that we are down there to play a football game and we have these opportunities to go to Disneyland, do whatever else we’re going to do in L.A. and kind of take the whole experience in for what it is and have as much fun as we can.”

Like McGary, Bartlett said his career has seemed to move both fast and slow. He used the offseason as an example. Those months, he said, seem like they go on for years. Everything else moves much more quickly.

“There’s just so much lifting and its mundane (in the offseason),” he said. “It’s tough. What we do is hard work. And then the season goes like that. It seems like we’ve been here forever and then you look back and it’s like the snap of a finger. We just got here not very long ago. It’s a little bit of both.”

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Lauren Kirschman is the UW Huskies beat writer for The News Tribune. She previously covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for PennLive.com. A Pennsylvania native and a University of Pittsburgh graduate, she also covered college athletics for the Beaver County Times from 2012-2016.
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