University of Washington

Fullbacks' divergent paths meet at UW

The starting fullback from Nebraska - Paul Homer - will play in his 49th and final game for the Washington Huskies on Saturday, set to leave as one of the program's truly unheralded seniors.

His backup from Nevada – junior Austin Sylvester – will likely see some action, too, against 19th-ranked California. But his time should come next season.

Perhaps no two players on the UW roster have taken more divergent paths than the team’s top fullbacks – staples in coach Steve Sarkisian’s offense.

In fact last weekend against Washington State in the 102nd Apple Cup, Sarkisian went with more of a power rushing attack, utilizing two-receiver sets and giving more snaps to Homer.

Homer also caught four passes for 28 yards in the 30-0 win.

“Paul has performed well for us,” Sarkisian said.

Typical of fullbacks is the fact that they seem to rely on one another throughout the season. Homer and Sylvester are no different.

“They’re very similar,” Huskies running backs coach Joel Thomas said. “Usually when I see one, the other one is right there. They’re similar to linemen in the fact they have a camaraderie going through a lot of the battles they do. They do a lot of the grunt work.”

Homer and Donald Butler were the only true freshmen to play in 2006. Homer played in all 12 games under former coach Tyrone Willingham. The past two seasons, he’s been named the team’s toughest contributor.

Though he is from Omaha, he’s not as much into outdoors activities as one might think.

“I didn’t shoot a shotgun until a year ago,” Homer said. “My uncle was a safety worker. He gave me a pellet gun to shoot birds, which was weird.”

The one thing he’s recently picked up is golf – with his girlfriend.

“She’s 100 times better than me, but she’s gotten me into golf so we can play,” he said. “It’s probably so I can pay for her.”

On the other hand, Sylvester’s No. 1 sport growing up was ice hockey – so much, he left home in Reno at 15 and moved in with a family in Ontario, Calif., so he could continue playing.

“At the time, yeah, I was (thinking professional hockey),” Sylvester said. “But I had a love for both hockey and football. Every time I would get sick of one, the other one would start up and I’d get excited.”

It was during a youth hockey tournament in New Jersey where a friend of his father’s suggested he take a look at The Hun School – a preparatory school – to repeat his senior year of high school.

Sylvester enrolled there for 2006-07 and played both football and hockey.

“We played against a lot of military academies,” he said. “It was a big deal for me. It bought me a year to get recruited.”

Huskies honor slain police

As a way to recognize Sunday’s killing of four Lakewood police officers, the Huskies are offering four free tickets to Saturday’s Cal game to all active police, military and fire-department personnel.

They can walk up to the ticket window on the northeast plaza of Husky Stadium on game day to receive the tickets, or call the UW ticket office (206-543-2200) ahead of time.

Extra points

Linebacker E.J. Savannah (broken left wrist) has already been declared out for the finale Saturday. Sarkisian said paperwork is being filled out to get Savannah a medical redshirt year, meaning he could return for a sixth season in 2010. … Safety Victor Aiweya (head), who got his bell rung on a special-teams hit in the second half against WSU, practiced Monday and should be OK to play. … Center Ryan Tolar (headaches) sat out Monday, giving all the first-unit snaps to Mykenna Ikehara.