By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - It was literally only about the width of the football, the move Senio Kelemete made after his freshman season for the Huskies.
But figuratively, Washington's senior left tackle has come so, so much farther than across the line of scrimmage since his initial days as a Dawg.
Kelemete begins his final year at UW on Saturday at 4 p.m. against Eastern Washington (ROOT Sports TV, Huskies IMG College radio, GoHuskies.com live game chat) as the Huskies' only senior starter on the offensive line.
And that leadership is extraordinary.
The native of Seattle is the only offensive tackle in Huskies history to be a team captain in more than one season. In fact, Kelemete, center Juan Garcia (2007-08) and center Ray Pinney (1974-75), who went on to win three Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers, are the only offensive linemen in 122 seasons of Washington football to be season captains more than once.
Kelemete can't believe the final season is here already.
"Yeah, it's kind of weird. It's like, `Man, I can't believe it's my senior year,'" he said with a smile on the eve of it starting. "I look back and see all the offensive linemen who came in last year, and now they are looking up to me. I didn't believe it when they said, `College football goes by fast, man. You've got to enjoy it.'"
It's been a great ride for a one-time defensive tackle. Kelemete played in eight games and started four on the defensive front as a freshman in 2008.
First-year head coach Steve Sarkisian and his new staff moved Kelemete to offense in their first spring running the Huskies, early in 2009. It wasn't that Kelemete was getting overwhelmed on defense. Sarkisian and offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto simply needed athletes up front on offense.
"We just didn't have enough linemen that fit the mold of what we were looking for," Sarkisian said following Thursday's practice. "We are an offense that prides itself on athletic offensive linemen that can move and play in space and do the things we like to do with the zone-blocking scheme, pulling our tackles on some of the toss sweep stuff. So to get him on the offensive line was a natural fit for us."
That change worked out OK.
Kelemete soared from part-time defensive lineman to honorable mention All-Pac-10, starting 11 of UW's 12 games in 2009 at right guard. He also won the John P. Angel award as the Huskies' top lineman that season - all as a sophomore.
"We thought he had a chance to be (a tackle), but he was a defensive lineman so you didn't know. We had a huge need inside that first year," Sarkisian said of the 6-foot-4, 301-pound Kelemete as a guard initially.
He moved to the linchpin spot of left tackle following that '09 season, after starter Ben Ossai used up his eligibility. Kelemete was the only member of Washington's rotating offensive line to start every game at the same spot in 2010.
His leadership transcended the field, showing up everywhere the team went. Besides being a captain as a junior on a line that had three seniors who started at least one game, Kelemete won the offense's weight-lifting award.