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Loyal Sapp Sticks Through Thick, Thin Offensive Lineman One Of Only Five Players To Stay With Troubled Program

Sun., Dec. 29, 1996, midnight

Bob Sapp still jokes about how his father dropped him off a week early for his freshman year at Washington, then went home and disconnected the phone.

Apparently it still hadn’t been hooked up a year later.

“I couldn’t even call my dad and tell him we were on probation, let alone for him to come and get me,” said Sapp, one of the Pac-10’s top offensive lineman this season and the No. 13 Huskies’ resident live-wire.

So Sapp stayed at Washington and endured the two years of probation that meant no bowl games.

Few of his classmates did, though. Of the 15 scholarship freshmen who entered in 1992, only five lasted through their senior year, which concludes Monday night against No. 8 Colorado in the Holiday Bowl.

“Coming away with either a victory or a loss, my feelings are going to be, hey, playing at Washington has been one of the finest things in my life,” said Sapp, turning serious for just a minute.

This senior class will always be special for coach Jim Lambright, who took over in 1993 after Don James walked away in protest of Pac-10 sanctions.

“They’ve been the heart and soul of holding the program together through the two really hard sanction years, keeping the hope up, keeping a vision of what we want to be,” Lambright said. “They’re also your direct contact with the success of the past.”

Freshman quarterback Brock Huard appreciates what Sapp, tackle Lynn Johnson, defensive tackle David Richie, and linebackers Ink Aleaga and John Fiala have meant to the program.

“Hopefully we’ll get ‘em a bowl win,” Huard said. “They’ve gutted it out and really fought through a lot of adversity. Now they get a chance to be big time and showcase what they can do and what we can do as a team.”

Richie felt he had a lot to look forward to as a Husky. After all, Washington beat Michigan 34-14 in the Rose Bowl to finish the 1991 season 12-0 and earn a share of the national championship with Miami.

“I expected to go to a couple of Rose Bowls and win a national championship,” Richie said. He made it to the Rose Bowl, all right, but was redshirted as a freshman and could only watch from the sideline as Tyrone Wheatley ran wild in Michigan’s 38-31 win.

Then the Husky program went dark for two years, penalized by the Pac-10 for NCAA rules violations.

“The dirt-tough guys are the ones who stayed,” Richie said. “When you start looking around at the personalities and the characters of the seniors, you can really tell that’s true. Only the strong guys stayed. It was real tough.”

Richie stayed because he was already married and because he’s from Washington.

And Sapp?

“I’d love to say it was the training table food, but that’s not the case,” said Sapp, who was moved from tackle to guard this year and helped spring tailback Corey Dillon for a school-record 1,555 yards. “Really, it’s just the camaraderie. Everyone wanted to play together.”

Besides, he said, “I’m so lazy, I’m not going to take all my stuff out of my room after I just put it up there.”

The Huskies returned to the post-season last year, only to be routed 38-18 by Iowa.

“There’s been no bowl wins at all, as opposed to us going home and eating out of our cereal bowls from the day we were on probation,” Sapp said. “The fact we went to a bowl game was a little highlight, and a lowlight in losing the way that we did. As seniors, we hope to bring to the table something that the seniors last year didn’t. That is, a victory in this bowl game.”

Richie considers this one of the best five bowl games this season. Both teams are 9-2, and a win would give Washington its best record since the national championship team of five years ago.

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