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Originally published Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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UW football | Good vibes from family, prep success noted in Gervais hire

In one sense, Washington football coach Tyrone Willingham took a big leap in choosing his latest addition to the UW staff. And in another, he...

Seattle Times staff reporter

In one sense, Washington football coach Tyrone Willingham took a big leap in choosing his latest addition to the UW staff. And in another, he didn't jump very far at all.

As expected, Willingham announced Wednesday the hiring of Skyline High's ultrasuccessful Steve Gervais, 54, as the new Huskies running-backs coach. Willingham said it's the first time in tenures at Stanford, Notre Dame and the UW that he has hired a coach directly from the prep ranks.

This one was a little different. Gervais, who won three state titles at Skyline — following three at Class A Eatonville — coached Willingham's son Nathaniel, and Gervais said Nathaniel and his son Riley "are the very best of friends."

Willingham conceded that familiarity with Gervais and his methods facilitated the idea that he add someone without college coaching experience.

"Having a son in the program made it even easier to see the fine points and attention to detail," said Willingham, who will be in his fourth season at UW. "Your son comes home and talks about things going on in the program, and you kind of know the inside of it very well."

Willingham said he kept consideration of Gervais as a hire relatively quiet at home.

"On this one, in my house for the most part, this was something the family did not have a great deal of knowledge on," Willingham said.

Gervais, meanwhile, said he wanted to see the last of his sons through at Skyline before considering such a move. Riley, an inside linebacker, will walk on at Washington.

Gervais called it "a tremendous opportunity" at "just a time in my life I was looking forward to a new challenge. The timing could have never been better."

A couple of former Skyline players, Cody Habben and Tony Chidiac, are Huskies. Still at Skyline is sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps, expected to be highly recruited.

Willingham said Gervais will recruit in the state of Washington and some in California.

As for his Skyline replacement, Gervais said, "I'm hoping it'll be someone that's worked with me in that program. There's tremendous community support. I don't think they'll miss [me] very much."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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