Closeness Is Key For Husky Secondary

Nov. 17, 2006

By Joshua Mayers
The Daily

Calling a team a family is cliché, but in the secondary of the Washington football team, it's true: Roy Lewis and Chris Hemphill are cousins.

But the relationships do not stop there.

Dashon Goldson and Lewis have played football on the same field since Pop Warner. C.J. Wallace and Hemphill came to the University of Washington in the same recruiting class.

So what do the players think about it?

'This is the way it should be; this is the way I always pictured it,' Lewis said. 'We feel as though we all play as one collective unit. We have that chemistry out there. It's a great feeling.'

They grew up in Southern California, and now they roam in the Pacific Northwest.

'It's just like family back there. We have each other's back,' Goldson said. 'If one of us goes down, the other steps up.'

The relationships go back to little league days in the Los Angeles area.

Lewis recalls playing against Goldson's Pop Warner team a 'long, long time ago.'

'He was the best on their team and I was the best on mine,' he said. 'Whenever we faced each other, we knew it was going to be a battle.'

The two went on to play together in junior high and at Narbonne High School. Back then, the secondary was set, so the coaches decided to play Lewis at linebacker.

After high school, Goldson came to Seattle, while Lewis took his talents to San Jose State.

'He was like my little protégé coming out, like my little brother, so when he went to San Jose State I was a little upset,' Goldson said. 'With his talent he could have gone someplace better, like a Pac-10 school, so I did what I could to get him here.'

When Lewis was granted a release from SJSU, Goldson gave him a call. His recruiting process, along with the efforts of his cousin Hemphill, worked: Lewis became a Husky.

Now Lewis and Goldson lock up the corners for the Washington defense. Having a long-time friend on the other corner only makes things comfortable for the players.

'It's easier playing with someone you've known for so long, especially with us playing on the edges,' Goldson said. 'I trust him on his corner and I know he trusts me on my corner.'

While Lewis is only blood-related to Hemphill, he feels he has a connection to everyone in the defensive backfield.

'There's just this family feel, this family vibe in the secondary,' Lewis said. 'Once you jump into the secondary here at Washington you become family.'

And thus, the fraternity was in place.

'I think the secondary is by far is the closest group on the team,' Lewis said. 'We all hang out outside of football together. We're all buddies and we're all brothers. We take pride it that too.'

Whether it's goofing around at someone's house or Goldson firing up the grill, the group is nearly inseparable.

'We all just get together sunup to sundown sometimes,' Wallace said. 'Sometimes it's an overnight type of thing. We'll just be on the sticks all night playing video games.'

With so much time spent together, the Huskies only feel that much more comfortable on the field with each other.

'Anytime you have a chemistry like we have, it's great for your football team,' Hemphill said.

'You know each other. You know what the other is thinking out there on the field because so spend time off the field.'

The Husky coaches try to utilize the rapport of the group, hoping that the players will motivate each other.

'I think they do a lot of things together, but on the field they have to push each other,' coach Tyrone Willingham said. 'So I hope that they continue to grow even more demanding of each other.'

With Wallace and Goldson each experienced seniors in the back, their teammates always know they can approach their leaders for advice and support.

'Dashon's like an older brother -- I come to him if I have any problems. He's always there to reassure me,' Lewis said. 'We all in the secondary look to Dashon and C.J. as the guys that have been around and have experience that we can get help from.'

Willingham, although reluctant to label them as the closest group on the team with regard to the receiving corps and the offensive line, admits to the familiarity of the group.

'They are a tight-knit group, and I think they have to be because their group is the last line of defense,' Willingham said. 'If something gets over their head or by them, there's no one else.'

The Huskies' final game of the season is the Apple Cup on Saturday.

Washington State's receiving group has been decimated by injuries, with playmakers Jason Hill and Michael Bumpus on the shelf.

Though the Huskies will just be playing for pride with their bowl hopes recently dashed, the defensive backs hope to make the final college game for most of their intimate group a successful one.

Goldson, Hemphill and Wallace are all in their last season at the UW, leaving Lewis as the only remaining member of the close group from California.

'It'll be hard to get used to, but I just have to step up,' Lewis said. 'I'll need to blossom into my own leader. I'll just have to do things on my own.

'I hope to bring some guys underneath me like Dashon and C.J. have done taking me under their wing.'

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