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Originally published May 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 7, 2007 at 9:02 PM

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UW football players reaching out

As a starting linebacker for a Washington Huskies football team that hasn't had a winning record during his career, Dan Howell is used to...

Seattle Times staff reporter

As a starting linebacker for a Washington Huskies football team that hasn't had a winning record during his career, Dan Howell is used to handling some tough questions.

But he'd never really gotten one quite like this.

"Have you ever had a bad game?" Howell was by asked Davon Bolton, a third-grader at T.T. Minor Elementary School, earlier this week.

Howell gave Bolton a playful glare before smiling and admitting that "yes, I've had a bad game before."

The exchange came during one of 37 visits UW players were scheduled to make to schools in the Seattle Public School District this week during a program the Huskies call "Blitz the Sound."

Every player on the football team was expected to participate in a program started last year by Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham and the athletic department and designed for the players talk about their experiences and the value of education.

Eventually, UW student-athletes from all sports are expected to take part, though for now it's just the football team.

On Wednesday, Howell, fellow linebacker Matt Houston and guard Casey Bulyca spent about an hour at T.T. Minor in the Central District talking to students and fielding questions during an assembly. The three also watched a presentation from the school's tumbling team, which physical-education teacher Heidi McElroy called a high point.

"They hadn't had a performance since November, so they were really excited," she said.

At other schools, players were expected to read books or participate in physical-education classes.

"I think it's a nice surprise for them just to know that a Husky player is coming to their school and taking some interest in them," said Howell.

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Howell said the team is doing a lot more community service since Willingham took over than it had previously. "It's nice that he has that kind of vision for the team," Howell said.

At T.T. Minor, the players were asked about 30 questions, running the gamut from "what is your hardest class?" and "what will you do when you retire?" to "who is the fastest player on the team?" To the latter question, Houston answered redshirt-freshman receiver D'Andre Goodwin.

The program is designed to visit schools from all sections of the city.

But assistant principal Wayne Greer said such presentations are particularly important at schools such as T.T. Minor, which he said has an enrollment that is 85 percent African American and includes many students at poverty level. The school's enrollment is roughly 250, consisting of children from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade.

"It's really powerful that they brought some players of color [both Howell and Houston are African American] to send the message that college is attainable," Greer said. "We have to have those models in place. And it's really important that groups like UW have these kinds of community connections."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

Read his blogs on Washington football and basketball at www.seattletimes.com/huskies

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