Safety Justin Glenn could have new role for Washington Huskies
Two years after breaking his right leg against Notre Dame, Glenn could become valuable in UW's nickelback package.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Even when the flesh was willing last season, Washington Huskies safety Justin Glenn readily acknowledges the mind was sometimes still just a little bit weak.
A graduate of Kamiak High, Glenn suffered a broken right fibula and torn ligaments in his ankle at Notre Dame on Oct. 3, 2009, knocking him out of what had been a promising freshman season for the Huskies.
He was hurt in rather freak fashion on a play when he was attempting to tackle current Seahawks receiver Golden Tate and was rolled up on by teammate Mason Foster.
The game was his fourth as the team's starter at free safety and he had been lauded for his play in an upset over USC a few weeks earlier and had scored a touchdown at Stanford in the previous game.
When he returned last season, he thought initially maybe he could pick right back up where he left off.
Instead, he says, he learned the hard way it wouldn't be quite that simple.
"I found out it was more mental," he said. "I still had the physical issue where I was fighting through pain. But at the same time, I wasn't right up top. I was kind of favoring it and thinking 'I can't do this like I used to be able to.' "
He made it onto the field for eight games, but was used almost solely on special teams, unable to earn back the spot he had lost.
But now, with the Huskies halfway through spring practice preparation for the 2011 season, Glenn feels whole again. The leg is fully recovered, and his mind is no longer playing games, instead allowing him to freely play the game.
"I'm feeling good," he said. "Feeling really good. I'm not thinking about the leg anymore — that's in the rearview mirror. It's just feeling good playing football again, so that's really nice."
However, there is a more crowded secondary than when he first emerged as a starter, despite the departure of three-year starter Nate Williams.
Nate Fellner eventually took over as the starter at free safety in 2009 after Glenn was injured, and held it last season, seemingly locked in again for 2011.
And talented newcomers such as Sean Parker and Taz Stevenson — Parker the likely heir apparent to Williams' spot — are on board.
Glenn, though, says he's accepts the competition, and is happy to take up what may be a new role as the team's nickelback — a fifth defensive back in passing situations.
"I kind of want to step in and make that my identity this year," he said.
Coaches see it as a perfect blend of Glenn's talents as he was initially recruited to UW as a cornerback before being moved to safety.
"He has some ability to do some different things because he knows corner and he knows safety and he understands what we are doing on defense," said UW safeties coach Jeff Mills.
Mills agrees with Glenn's assessment that Glenn appears finally back to his 2009 form.
"A year ago coming off that injury he was obviously thinking, working through the process," Mills said. "Obviously I don't think that's the case now. That's behind him now, so it's been fun to watch him out there just working, competing.
"To his credit, he has had a really good attitude. He went through a lot — you go through surgeries and injuries, there's a lot to get through, not just in the rehab but the mental part of playing the game of football again. And I really feel this spring he is not thinking anymore, he's just reacting and playing."
Season ticket update
School officials reported that UW has sold 38,790 season tickets compared to 38,902 at this point last year. Both numbers are higher than the 2009 total to this date of 37,300.
The average ticket price has increased 2.5 percent, though UW officials say they don't think that has had an impact on sales, saying the increase is consistent with the standard rate.
The team has six home games this year as well as the Apple Cup at Qwest Field. The Apple Cup, however, is not being managed by UW and is not part of the school's season-ticket package.
The Huskies will host their annual coaches clinic this weekend. One of the keynote speakers is head coach Kevin Sumlin of Houston, who attended UW's practice Thursday.
• The Huskies worked in the Dempsey Indoor and were in helmets and shoulder pads and shorts