It was toward the end of my interview with Beno Bryant that I asked the former Dawg how he envisions Husky Football in the new Chris Petersen Era.
"With Beno Bryant as the running backs coach!" he said. "Coaching alongside Coach Petersen and Coach Marques Tuiasosopo and we win several Rose Bowls and a few National Championships!"
We laughed for several seconds, but it was clear that he wasn't joking. As a member of the 1991 National Championship team, Bryant suffered with the rest of Husky Nation through the past dark decade of Husky Football. After many years of living and coaching in Southern California, he feels the pull of the Pacific Northwest.
"I'm just saying man, I want to be up there," he said. "I want to help! This is no stepping stone for me. It's a once in a lifetime dream job for me , to come back. I want to be on the staff. I want to be a part of bringing them back. I want to be able to help carry on Coach James' legacy."
The recent arrival of Chris Petersen as Washington's head coach came from the rapid resignation of former coach Steve Sarkisian. I asked Beno what he thought of Sark's swift departure from Seattle in order to take the USC job.
"It was a decision made on his family and I'm happy for him," Bryant said. "I don't know everything that went on there, but I think there should have been more communication with the players. I'm all about the players. Adults, we can get over it. We've been through some things so we can get over it. We should have a different mental fortitude. But it's the kids that suffered in this regard. First off, they were recruited by him. And everything was fixed up around there to help Sark recruit more of them. From what I heard, some of them were in the weight room lifting when it flashed across the TV screen that he was leaving. So I just think there should have been more communication."
Bryant sees exciting talent populating the current Husky roster. But he also feels there are elements missing from Husky games he's seen in recent years.
"I think that I could bring back some of the passion that we had back in the day which I see isn't there," he said. "The passion wasn't there. The grit, the grime and the fight wasn't there. It was just a lot of guys playing football. And that's fine if that's what you want to do. But when I was there, we were `just go play football somewhere else.' Because we wanted to beat you up. And I didn't see that. And that's what got to me sometimes, because we have the players to do it. I'm not knocking anybody. I just think we need to have more of that around the University of Washington football program. I think I can bring some of that; with the attitude, the passion, the desire and never-say-die attitude, and I just know how to motivate kids."
I mentioned to Bryant the tendency of the current Huskies to get brash and puffed up when beating sub par teams, but becoming despondent when playing superior talent.
"I would see some of the heads drop and some of the mannerisms get out of whack," Bryant said. "But they have to understand that they're Dawgs. You're a Dawg. And if you think how a dawg lives, everything isn't right. It's not right-- but he finds a way to survive. Simple as that. You have to have dawg tendencies. You can't just say you're a dawg and start to whimper. Not too many real dawgs whimper. They're aggressive. They fight to the finish! Through whatever is going on. That's what they have to do. They have to be conditioned to do that... But it can be done."
This past October, in the week following the death of his former coach Don James, Bryant traveled to Seattle to attend the Huskies game against Cal. Washington won handily, but Bryant did a double take when looking toward the bench.
"We got to dancing on the sideline," he said. "I remember back in the day, I couldn't do that. I would have Dennis Brown saying something, Martin Harrison saying something, or Bern Brostek grabbing me, saying `hey what are you doing? It's business down here. You can't be doing that kind of stuff here!
"But it got to the point where everybody (on the current team) was doing that kind of stuff.
"I'm not saying don't be excited," he said. "I want that, be excited! I want you to have fun. Play like a bunch of crazed dawgs. I love it! But what I'm saying is that if you're willing to do that when you're winning, you have to be willing to take that punch in the mouth when you're losing.
"We're going to suffer some losses. But when you play a tough opponent the next week, how are you going to bounce back? Are you going to sit back and weep and sulk and the next week comes it happens again? Or are you going to go out on Monday and prepare to go out there and put a beating on this team? But that means we've got to prepare in practice. That means we've got to run ourselves into the ground at practice. That means when it's time to shine, we shine like a bright light."