Beno Bryant remembers his first Husky training camp in 1989. The fleet-footed running back had been lightly recruited, despite having won the "Football 60" race against the fastest prep football players coming out of California that year. When Bryant arrived in Seattle, Washington was coming off a frustrating 6-5 season.
"Of course you had to pay your dues," he said. "We had a sense of urgency for our program to turn things around. We wanted to prove something not only to ourselves but the coaches that we can take this instruction, go out there on the field and show them how it manifests. It was just a wonderful feeling seeing that.
"Was I a little nervous? Of course I was little nervous," he said. "Did I get bullied a little bit? I wouldn't say I got bullied or went through a hazing, but there was a chain of command you needed to follow through. You were a freshman. If the upperclassmen told you a few things or did a few things to you, they were things you had to accept and get tougher. It wasn't maliciously done, but it was done to tell you, `hey man, you've got to pay your dues.'"
Bryant, of course, went on to become an iconic figure in Husky Football history. In conversation, he stated how so much has changed in both college football and with the Huskies since his playing days. When it comes to paying dues, Bryant thinks things have changed for the worst in college football.
"Nowadays it's not like that," he said. "If you're a (big-time) freshman, you come in and you walk around like you're an upperclassman. That doesn't work.
"I came in and I wasn't one of the highly sought after individuals to get to Washington -- I barely got there. But Tommie Smith was one of those guys. And myself and Tommy, and D'Marco Farr and Jamal Fountaine, we all had to take bags to the laundry room at the end of practice.
"There were guys getting their lockers taped up and making them late to meetings, because they weren't doing the things they were supposed to do.
"I don't think that happens anymore because now you have the ESPNU Top 100 guys that come and they don't have to do that type of stuff because, in my opinion, some institutions probably are afraid of who might leave if they get chastised a bit. I just think it's a sense of toughness that we have to go through. And in our program, I don't know what's happening over there (right now)... But if it had continued to happen, then individuals understand that you come in and pay your dues and you see what the older guys are doing, then individuals come up in classes behind you and they follow and adjust accordingly. And it just builds team morale and team camaraderie.
"It humbles you," he said. "You establish a sense of humility. And then you begin to work on your craft."
Bryant recalled some personal stories that help prove his point.
"I was on the scout team going against the #1 defense," he said. "I was known to have some speed. I got the ball and took off and had a pretty decent run. I veered off to the sideline and Dana Hall hit me and hit me pretty hard. I lost my balance and had to hop over a bench. He hit me so hard my head was ringing. He was standing on the sideline watching to see if I was okay. But as soon as he saw I was okay, he shook his head as if to tell me `it ain't happenin'.'
"I took off again on another run and went through the middle and got hit. I was at the bottom of the pile and said `ohhh, that was a good one!'
"And someone in the pile said `yeah this isn't Football 60 here. Speed alone don't cut it here.' Dudes were telling you in so many words, you've got to work to be good. Don't think you're coming in here to be good, you've got to prove yourself. And I loved it! I loved it. That just made me work even harder to get even better. It made me want to get even better. Some dudes don't like it because they don't have that mental fortitude and intestinal fortitude. When they take that, they take it as someone being somewhat condescending or dissing, and then they'd get on a different track and wanting to fight and not liking a person and talking crap.
"We didn't have that type of stuff with us," he said. "We just didn't have it. We were a different breed. I don't know what's going on over there (with Husky Football) right now. From what I've seen on the outskirts, they're running a great program. A lot of the guys are more finesse as opposed to being tough. I think that with all the athleticism they have - because they have some extraordinary players there-- if they incorporate getting down and dirty and grimy and gritty, there could be a shift.
"Because they have amazing talent over there."