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PROVO -- It is almost a guarantee that the upcoming BYU Washington game will test the mind, body and heart of every player who will step onto the calm green field of an eccentric LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday.
With fans roaring and the night air glistening, the first game of the season always brings out the best of both teams. However, when competition puts friend against friend, a new element of respect mixed with cut throat aggression develops. For one Washington player, the return to Provo will provide exactly that.
Cort Dennison graduated from Salt Lake City's Judge Memorial High School. While there he was recruited heavily by BYU, the University of Utah and Washington State among other colleges. Dennison grew up an avid Ute fan, but he decided to pursue his collegiate career with the Huskies. He is now their starting middle linebacker, heading to back Provo with a chip on his shoulder.
"Obviously I'm going to have a ton of family and friends there," Dennison said. "Whether we're playing BYU or any other team it's just another game, it's still football you're going to just have to go out there and play and not let the distractions get to you."
Dennison may find it harder to ignore distractions than he imagines. He estimates that around 30 to 40 friends and family will be in attendance at the game. Not only will familiar faces be cheering in the stands but they will also be on the field playing against him. BYU's newly appointed offensive tackle Braden Brown is one of Dennison's friends who will be doing more than just rubbing shoulders with him on the field.
However this nostalgic trip back to Provo won't be limited to Dennison alone. There is another Washington Huskies team member who will also be seeing some familiar sights.
Steve Sarkisian, the head coach of Washington's football team is one of the BYU's most successful quarterbacks, leading the Cougars to a 14-1 season in 1996, and ending the season with a win in the Cotton Bowl. This year's bout against BYU will be especially memorable after last year's dramatic defeat.
"It's a business trip for sure," Sarkisian mentioned. "I‘ll take a few moments on Friday at the walk through to kind of reminisce, we had some great moments, some great wins there, but ultimately my concern is about these 105 kids that we have on our program today. This is their weekend; this is their day and so that will be my focus." Overall, this year's season opener between the Cougars and the Huskies promises to be an exciting match-up between players and coaches.
(Photo courtesy University of Washington)