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Dante Pettis becoming UW football’s ultimate utility man

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Dante Pettis. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- If you’re a true Husky football fan, you will never forget the fearless walk-on player from Gig Harbor, Washington: Joe Jarzynka. The 5-foot-7, 175-pounder became a UW legend when he refused to fair catch punts, and volunteered to do any job to help the Dawgs between 1996 and 1998.

Jarzynka also returned kickoffs, caught passes, ran reverses, and in his final season even became the Husky’s place kicker.

In one memorable game against California, “Little Joe” ran a punt back 91 yards for a touchdown, then stayed on the field to boot the extra point. He was the ultimate “utility man”.

Twenty years later Dante Pettis is Washington’s football "Swiss army knife."

Pettis has already set the career school record of five for most punt returns for touchdowns, will be a go-to receiver, has occasionally thrown passes and now wants to be the place-kick holder.

“Holding is fun,” Pettis said with a chuckle after the Dawgs' second fall practice. “The more you get the ball in your hands the better.”

The son of Houston Astros baseball coach Gary Pettis was asked whether he would call a trick play audible if he wins Washington’s holder job.

“I would call the fake if I could. I don’t know if coach Pete (Chris Petersen) would like that much, but I would love to call a fake!”

Reserve quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels is another player in the mix to be the holder.

Last spring Pettis persuaded UW’s head football coach to allow him to turn out for the Husky track program, competing in the long jump. Pettis says the skill set definitely helps him become a better receiver.

No question Pettis benefitted last season with the presence of speedster John Ross III. With defenses keying on Ross, Pettis took advantage of single coverage to the tune of 15 touchdown receptions, third-highest total in school history, seventh-most in the country. With Ross gone to the NFL, Dante knows he will have a bigger target on his No. 8 purple jersey this fall.

“I could see it (double teams) happening, but we still have good guys on the other side of the field. Who knows what they’ll do? I don’t know if they’d want to leave that other side of the field open for one-on-one coverage. I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw that,” admitted Pettis.

Don’t be surprised either if Dante Pettis, the ultimate utility player, has another multidimensional big year for Husky football.

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The first week of Washington football fall camp culminates with an open-to-the-public practice from 2:50 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, August 6. Fans are invited down to Alaska Airlines field for picture day following that session in Husky Stadium.

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