|Tripplett returns, sees changed University of Washington|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 05 May 2008 21:15|
He called Randy Hart, his old position coach at the University of Washington.
``I was fired up. He was fired up,'' Tripplett said Monday, after the veteran defensive tackle finished the fourth day of his new NFL life with the Seahawks.
Then, when Tripplett arrived in Seattle, he went almost directly from the airport to Husky Stadium, where he started from 1999-2001.
``Man, just seeing old Husky Stadium again made me excited,'' said Triplett, who graduated to play four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and two more with the Buffalo Bills.
The veteran of 62 NFL starts is back in Seattle to give depth to a Seahawks defensive line that lost Chuck Darby and Ellis Wyms to free agency and starters Rocky Bernard and Marcus Tubbs to spring surgeries.
``My thing was, I was looking to be on a good team,'' said Tripplett, who had the final three seasons of his contract terminated by the Bills on Feb. 29. ``I kind of got used to that being in Indy, being in the playoffs, being on a good team.''
Then came two lost seasons in Buffalo. He struggled as a starter and with losing for the first time as a collegian or pro.
``I'm not going to lie to you. I miss it,'' said Tripplett. ``Even from my time at the U-Dub, I was used to winning.''
The Huskies have had one winning season since he left, and the school president has given coach Tyrone Willingham one more year to achieve a turnaround.
What does he think has happened?
``I don't know, man,'' Tripplett said, shaking his head. ``When you have a lot of turnover as far as the head coach, it's hard on the program. I think the key to college, especially a program like UW, is having that stability.''
Washington had it for 18 years and six Rose Bowls with Don James and another six years with his top assistant, Jim Lambright.
Rick Neuheisel arrived in 1999, and that's when Tripplett began starting. He said he came from Westchester High School in Los Angeles because of the tradition at Washington and what he says is the best football environment on the West Coast.
``You get into those late Octobers and Novembers, it gets gloomy here,'' he said. ``You go into that stadium and the fans really back us.''
The Huskies went 26-10 and appeared in the Rose Bowl as Pac-10 champions and in the Holiday Bowl twice as the conference's second-place team in the three seasons Tripplett was a speedy, supposedly short - maybe 6-foot-1 - stalwart in the middle.
Then a year after Tripplett left Washington, Neuheisel was gone, too, in trouble for participating in a college basketball betting pool.
In the name of continuity, Tripplett and Hart would like to see Willingham stick around to finish his reclamation project. Willingham is 11-25 at Washington entering the fourth season of a five-year contract.
``Coach Willingham is bringing that stability there,'' Tripplett said. ``The problem now is just everybody being patient and letting the thing grow and manifest.
``We live in the age of instant gratification, but really to do a program right and do it up right, it takes time. The Seahawks didn't just turn around in a day.''
Said Hart, while on the phone during a recruiting trip Monday: ``We just had the best spring practice we've had here in five, six, eight years. We're on the right track, and that's Tyrone Willingham.''
Tripplett is just hoping he's around to see the Huskies this fall and for the Seahawks' run at a fifth consecutive NFC West title.
Seattle has him on a veteran-minimum contract of $605,000 - far from the approximately $1.7 million Tripplett was scheduled to make this season with Buffalo. Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren expects Bernard and Tubbs to be back on the field by training camp, though Tubbs may be limited into August.
Seattle also has veterans Craig Terrill, Chris Cooper and Howard Green, and they drafted Red Bryant in the fourth round last week to be a run stuffer.
If he's still here, Tripplett will be going to all the Huskies games he can. Hart said Tripplett will be also coming to talk to his defensive linemen.
``I guarantee it,'' Hart said. ``He's worked hard. He's listened. He's studied. He's gotten his degree.
``He's done it, and he's done it the right way.''