Bow Down To Montlake Jimmy

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UW has the pedigree, now it searches for its identity. It started with Sarkisian who brought excitement to a flailing program. Then came Petersen who restored a middling program to prominence and national recognition. 

Now, it’s Jimmy Lake’s turn.

The issue isn’t getting “OKG’s” anymore; it isn’t even getting respect from national media. The next problem to check off is establishing the University of Washington as a national football powerhouse; to be mentioned with programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma. Coach Petersen came close, thrusting Washington back into the conversation with its first CFP appearance. But does Washington have staying power?

If you’d ask Jimmy Lake, I’d guess he feels pretty confident. When addressing a Husky basketball crowd this past season, he said after listening to their roar, “This is why we will continue to dominate the West Coast, because of fans like you!”

Not only does Lake provide inspiring, straight-forward, enthusiastic rhetoric, he shows what real commitment, work-ethic and desire lead to—confidence, winning, and identity.

In his first gig at Washington, Lake experienced one of the worst seasons in UW history as the team ended the year 1-10. Head Coach Keith Gilbertson was promptly fired along with the rest of his staff including Jimmy Lake. Did that deter Lake? Not at all.

“We loved Seattle. We loved the University of Washington. We really feel at home here, and that was a sad day packing up that U-Haul.”

Lake would go on to garner experience coaching in the NFL ranks under Monte Kiffin and Raheem Morris among others. But it was his long-standing relationship with DC Pete Kwiatkowski that ended up leading him back to the Evergreen State and the Purple and Gold.

Lake first met Kwiatkowski at Eastern Washington where Lake played football. They reunited years later as coaches at Montana State, and then again under Chris Petersen at Boise State. These kinds of relationships have been key in Lake’s unusual climb up the coaching ranks. They are also a gleaming example of the identity he hopes to establish as Head Coach at Washington.

Consistency

Ask anyone who has crossed paths with Lake on his journey through football and they will tell you the UW coach has never wavered. Dating back to his high school and college days, Mike Kramer details how he came to recruit Lake at Eastern Washington: 

“I laid on the floor of my kitchen in the heat of the day and I talked to Jimmy for an hour because we couldn’t go off-campus for recruiting then. I literally offered him a scholarship and begged him to come to Eastern and he never did disappoint.”

Go listen to his interviews from Boise State; from his time working for Tampa Bay and Detroit in the NFL, he is the same guy donning the gold ‘W’ today. Not to say he hasn’t picked up some knowledge along the way, but Lake’s spirit has remained consistent throughout. He will aim to provide this same level of consistency and demand it from his players in order to propel UW into national title contention.

Authenticity

Nobody has to question Lake’s enthusiasm when he speaks. Go to a Husky football practice and you’ll see those words come to life as Lake fist bumps, yells, and jumps his way through drills. Remember the game New Orleans Saints coach Sean Peyton injured his knee? Jimmy Lake ruptured his patellar tendon that same game as a coach for the Buccaneers. Bucs Safety Tanard Jackson got a key interception and Lake injured himself chest bumping the Safety.

Fearlessness

If we return to Lake’s first tenure with the Huskies we see the confidence he has in his process that has led to an absolute fearless mentality.

“Everyone told me not to take the job,” Lake said, “that everyone was going to get fired. But it was an unbelievable experience.”

When Keith Gilbertson was asked about Lake he said, “What happened there was no reflection on Jimmy. A lot of guys didn’t want that job. He was not afraid.”

This fearlessness shows in the defenses he coaches; aggressive, good tackling, flying around, instinctual. It’s a huge reason UW has sent three DB’s to the NFL in each of the past two drafts.

According to last year’s starting center, Nick Harris, Lake has an edge about him, saying about his DB’s, “That’s why they’re always so good. If that happens to the whole team, they’re going to be pretty dangerous.”

Purple For Life

It’s not his purple Dodge Challenger or his GQ cover shot, or even his humorous digs at former Wazzu Coach Mike Leach that brings the talent to Montlake. It’s the consistent charismatic, authentically fearless attitude that allowed him to retain 23 of 23 recruits after Chris Petersen stepped down. That is the reason Jimmy Lake will have a bright future in the greatest setting in college football.

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About Author

Ryan is a writer born and raised in Seattle. A graduate of UW, this lifelong Husky fan never thought he’d be writing for an Oregon based news site, but he also never thought he’d see his Dawgs go 0-12. Just don’t ask him to write about the Ducks. You can often find him on the hardwood (when his knees allow it) or with his friends playing boardgames and poker. Ryan also coaches high school basketball and spends countless hours staring at his dog or finding books to add to his library. Hopefully one day you’ll catch his name on the front of a novel or attached to a screen play, but until then you’ll find him here.

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