Huskies’ Odunze freed, finds his way to end zone – Sportspress Northwest

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Second-year rookie Rome Odunze scored his first Huskies touchdown on Saturday. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Rome Odunze sat down earlier in the week to do his first media interview as a member of the University of Washington football team, looked mischievously at the camera and offered: “Hi Mom.”

The local football factory usually tries to protect new players from the crowd of reporters early on, fearing that they may lack the maturity or courage to answer quick questions from strangers.

Still, Odunze, a sophomore catcher at famed Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, demonstrated for over 15 insightful minutes that he should have received his own radio talk show the day he walked the campus.

He is brilliant, cheerful, talkative. A natural in front of an audience. An NIL agreement waiting to occur.

For all the negativity surrounding this team of 2-4 Huskies playing the hapless Arizona (0-6, 0-3 Pac-12) in Tucson at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Odunze is a lifeline for better days, perhaps. the best player in Coach Jimmy Lake’s roster. His absence was one of the reasons UW tripped out of the gate, missing the first three games with an unspecified injury.

Fans feared that this stagnant season combined with liberal transfer portal arrangements would push someone like Odunze, a highly skilled 6-3, 200-pound wide receiver who was a champion prep sprinter, to go. elsewhere. One of his family members even teased the possibility on social media. He purged the air.

“I’m happy to be a Dawg for sure; I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, ”said Odunze. “I love the culture here, the people, I love the fans. I’m just excited to put more into it, honestly. I think it’s a challenge to be led 2-4 and to have those opportunities to come.

“It’s really a test of who we are as a team, who we are as a culture and who we are as a family, and what we’re going to do – we’re all in the same boat.”

Before famed forward Zion Tupuola-Fetui made his celebrated comeback against UCLA last weekend after surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, Odunze’s season started two games earlier, after s ‘to recover from his injury.

However, Saturday’s game was as much of an exit party for Odunze as it was for the player known as ZTF. The receiver made his first start, caught the first touchdown of his career with the Huskies and narrowly missed another score.

“You see the intensity and the momentum he’s on the pitch,” said tight end Cade Otton. “You can tell he has been playing football for a while and is ready to play.”

In the second quarter, the long pass catcher – thinks big like DK Metcalf, only lighter – slipped behind the UCLA secondary and caught a 26-yard shot from Dylan Morris.

Earlier, Odunze caught a 17-yard pass from Morris which he brought back to the Bruins 2 before being pushed out of bounds. He felt he should have scored there too.

Typical of this incomplete season, they lost 24-17 to further discourage their fan base. But not the receiver.

“It’s frustrating, because I really think Washington has a history of success,” Odunze said. “We want to amplify and represent that in our games, and go out and dominate our opponents. It’s a tough game.

Despite the unexpected hopelessness, Odunze comes across as a fun-loving personality.

After his touch, he kissed his mother in the stands. After the 31-24 overtime win over California, he enthusiastically slapped a long line of students in the end zone. He took a piggyback ride to train one day on the back of first-year center Geirean Hatchett.

He often wears a net of gear bag over his head during his daily workouts to help him focus on catching balls.

Odunze, who has 10 receptions for 134 yards in his half-season, offers heroism, hands and hope.

“We put a lot of emphasis on adversity here,” he said. “Life is adversity. What does not kill you makes you stronger. I like to live off that.

If a guy like this can have so much fun losing, imagine what could happen to Odunze when UW starts winning again.

More work by former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Dan Raley can be found here at si.com/maven

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