Many of the Washington Huskies feel a connection to the 1991 team that won the school’s only national title with players from that squad visiting with them and sharing stories of their run.
But as these Huskies prepare to compete for the championship again Monday night against Michigan (7:30 p.m. ET), there’s one player who shares the ultimate bond with someone from that team.
Senior linebacker Carson Bruener’s father, Mark Bruener, was a freshman tight end on the 1991 team that went 12-0 to win the national championship.
“It’s awesome,” Carson Bruener said. “We’ve talked about it all year. It’s cool to just be able to compare and contrast and get his point of view on what’s it like be in the national championship. I feel like it just gives me that extra motivation.”
Washington star defensive end Bralen Trice said the current Huskies are well-educated about and by that 1991 team.
“We’ve gone over the history of the ’91 team, we know everything about them. It’s awesome to be surrounded by support from them,” Trice said.
Trice talked about particularly admiring former Huskies linebacker Dave Hoffman, who had a brief NFL career before becoming a member of the Secret Service, protecting presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
“That dude is like a hammer,” Trice said. “Just seeing clips, hearing from him in the past.”
The elder Bruener has given his son plenty of advice in the days leading up to the game. But what stuck with him most is to remember that this could be his only chance to compete for a championship. After winning the national title as a freshman, Mark Bruener also started his NFL career with a trip to the Super Bowl with the Steelers. Pittsburgh lost that game to the Colts and Mark Bruener never reached the big game again in a 14-year career.
“So, really just soaking in the moment because it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Carson Bruener said. “Obviously our plan and our goal is to do this every single year, but you’ve really just got to live in the moment.”
Michigan running backs coach Mike Hart might be as close to some members of Washington’s coaching staff as he is to the guys working for the Wolverines.
Hart considers Washington tight ends coach Nick Sheridan his best friend after the two played together at Michigan and were both assistants at Indiana together. He’s also worked with Washington coach Kalen DeBoer at both Eastern Michigan and Indiana and spent time alongside Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb at Eastern Michigan.
Hart coached with Washington linebackers coach William Inge at Indiana and he recruited Huskies graduate assistant Shaq Vann.
“I know a lot of the guys there and not just know them, but I have some really good friends there,” Hart said. “We really enjoy being around each other. Wouldn’t be happier playing anybody else than these guys in the national championship.”
Hart, who is Michigan’s all-time leading rusher, also has another connection to DeBoer that happened before the two coached together at Indiana.
“My youngest daughter is named Kalen, but not after him though,” Hart said. “We didn’t know if we were going to have a boy or a girl and my wife wanted a name that went both ways. And I said ‘Kalen.’ And she’s like: ‘there’s no boys named Kalen.’ And I had to show her a picture of DeBoer.”
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Giles Jackson will suit up for Washington on Monday, but the receiver is plenty familiar to the Wolverines after beginning his career at Michigan.
Jackson spent two years in Ann Arbor before transferring to Washington for the 2021 season. He had three catches for 49 yards and three runs for 9 yards in Washington’s 31-10 loss at Michigan that year.
“It’s a fun week,” Jackson said. “It’s a surreal moment, honestly seeing both teams I’ve played for being in the College Football Championship.”
Jackson hasn’t kept in touch with a lot of his former teammates, but he has talked to Michigan receiver Cornelius Johnson a bit.
But Johnson said they won’t be interacting this week.
“It’s serious because they are the opponent now,” Johnson said. “Until then, I’m not friends with him until after the game. That’s the mindset.”
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Michigan offensive tackle LaDarius Henderson was part of the last team to beat Washington.
The Huskies’ 21-game winning streak dates back to last season, when they lost 45-38 at Arizona State.
Henderson was the starting left guard for the Sun Devils, but suffered a tendon injury in his hand during that game and missed the rest of the season.
Still, it was a happy memory.
“We had our former walk-on quarterback starting, Trenton Bourguet. And he diced them up. That game was awesome,” Henderson said. “I’m 2-0 against these Huskies.”
Henderson has played left tackle for Michigan, helping solidify one of the best lines in the country.
He had no ties to Michigan when he transferred in. He said he just wanted to challenge himself, raise his profile and play in big games.
“Why not come to Michigan?” he said. “Let’s bet on myself, roll the dice and let’s see it.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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