This is the diametric opposite of yesterday's weekly "What the F%@ck!!!" column, which takes a look at something that really grinds my gears. Double Rainbow takes us to places that normally only crazy guys at the top of Yosemitebear Mountain go...gleeful to the point of uncontrollable sobbing.
This week, Lance Kendricks received the John Mackey Tight End of the Week Award for his 7 catch (all for first downs), 131 yard, 1 td performance. That award, while a nice little honor for the mantle, doesn't mean all that much. It has no significance or connection to the more prestigious annual John Mackey Award given to the nation's best tight end at the end of the year.
But it got me thinking about the tight ends that have come through the UW in recent years. This isn't exactly a new revelation, most fans are well aware of how good we've had it at TE lately. But I swear my favorite player on the team for the past 5 years has been a tight end. And I'm not even particularly partial to tight ends, I usually gravitate toward baddass linebackers and stuff.
But I want to wrap myself up in a blanket of UW tight ends and take a Rip Van Winkle nap. These guys are awesome.
I'm going to start my retrospective in 1995, because that's when my connection to the UW tight end truly began. I played a HS football scrimmage vs. Dague Retzlaff back in Minnesota that year. I'm pretty sure I even tackled him once as he leapt 25 feet above my head to snatch a ball out of the sky, and I was there to guide him softly to the ground as he returned to earth. I knew he was big, and had heard he was likely headed for college ball, but didn't know we'd both be going to Wisconsin (me as a drunken journalism student, him as BMOC tight end).
Retzlaff had a decent career, but an outstanding nickname...Dague-a-saurus. I don't know why but that one always slayed me. Nothing better than hearing Barry compliment Dague-a-saurus in a post game interview.
Dague started in the '98 & '99 seasons, then in 2000 John Sigmund mostly blocked for Michael Bennett and got overshadowed in the passing game by outstanding WR's Lee Evans and Chris Chambers.
The next 4 years saw yeoman-like TE efforts from Mark Anelli, Bob Docherty, Tony Paciotti, Jason Pociask, Matt Mialik and Rob Tucker, among a few others. Now, I respect all those guys, but I gotta say they didn't exactly inspire me the way the past few guys have. We can make a blanket of them, but I might leave this one on the floor for my dog rather than wrap myself up in it.
2004 was when it got interesting. All of a sudden we started seeing the kid we recruited as a QB on the field as a tight end (with the biceps to match) making some pretty great catches. Owen Daniels moved from QB to WR and then finally to TE, where he played out his senior season well enough to get him drafted in the 4th round. By the time he left, he had me yearning for more. Despite my unique connection to Dague-a-saurus, this is when my love affair with UW tight ends truly began.
In 2006 they switched LB Travis Beckum over to TE, and the position fit him like a glove. He grabbed 61 balls that first year at his new position, then followed that up with 75 in '07, and in the process became the Snoopy to my Charlie Brown...the Lloyd Christmas to my Harry Dunne. I didn't know what I'd ever do without him.
Beckum made first down catches like I made mistakes on my ACT exam. His hands were unbelievably reliable, and he had the poise to match. Whenever a big play was needed, Beckum was there to deliver. 11 touchdowns doesn't do his career justice...in my mind he had 111.
Then in '08, his senior year, the year in which he was sure to get the Mackey award that he was a semifinalist for the year before, the unthinkable happened. Beckum broke his leg in the 8th game of the year, Homecoming vs. Illinois, ending his UW career.
I'm sure the broken leg didn't feel good, but no way was it worse than the pain I felt. Was this the end of our mini-run as Tight End U?
Not so fast. We had been getting glimpses of him for the past couple years, but up until this point Garrett Graham was just the white guy that filled in for Beckum once in a while. When Beckum went down, Graham stepped up. In a big way.
He ended up grabbing 40 balls in that '08 season, and 51 the following year. Although not quite as athletic as Beckum, he had the same glue-covered hands and I'd argue he made just as big an impact on our offense as Beckum did, making catches in seemingly impossible spots from some pretty bad throws at times. Graham finished his career last year with 16 td's and 932 first down catches.
By this time we were falling into a nice little pattern of watching one guy leave only to see his predecessor step right in with no dropoff whatsoever. So everybody that knew Graham was on his way out last year had their eyes on Lance Kendricks, myself included. And as usual I developed a man-crush on the guy, admiring his athleticism, speed and excellent hands.
Which brings us to this year, Kendricks's time to shine. Which he is obviously doing, as evidenced by his virtuoso performance vs. ASU (i have no idea what that phrase means, but doesn't it sound sweet?).
Hopefully Kendricks can continue to inspire us all to the point of uncontrollable, blubbering tears this year, and then he can pass the baton to the next guy down the line and the burgeoning TE tradition at UW can continue to grow.
Double Rainbow all the way!