Earlier in August, I sat down with both Damon Huard and Tony Castricone at a UW alumni event in Spokane. Huard’s interview is already live on the site, and you can read it here. With Castricone, we talked about what he learned from legendary radio voice Bob Rondeau, the current environment around the football program, and realignment.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Mark Schafer: You took over for Bob Rondeau about 6 years ago...
Tony Castricone: That’s right.
MS: What have you learned from Bob that has helped you in your own broadcasting career?
TC: Well, a lot of what I learned from Bob I learned way before 6 years ago. I got to be his producer and scoreboard update guy in 2010, when I worked at the IMG College National headquarters in Winston Salem, my job was, I was in the studio, I was popping on with the score updates. But I was also playing all the commercials, timing things out, making sure that they had everything they needed from a studio standpoint for the broadcast to go well. And just listening to him- and I had listened to him on the internet before, I had always kind of sampled all of the announcers from all over the country. Listening to every minute of the 2010 football season, and then the 2010-2011 basketball season, Isaiah Thomas had the “Cold Blooded” shot. I just got to hear, “this is how a guy navigates all the ups and downs of a drive, of a game, of a season,” and I just thought he was a great storyteller. He did it with great inflection in his voice, great enthusiasm, a deep vocabulary and a great knowledge of the history of the program. When I came in as the new guy, knowing that this was a big time job, my big break, the first thing I wanted to do, as a guy that grew up outside the region, was I wanted to learn the history of the program. So I went into the SID’s office, and I started leafing through every media guide back to 1947-
TC: I photocopied all the box scores back to 1976, I started highlighting them in different colors and sorting them so that way, when someone makes a reference to the Miracle in the Desert, I know exactly what they’re talking about. They’re talking about ‘98, Brock Huard finding Reggie Davis on 4th and 17 for 63 yards to knock off ASU, right after they’d been to the Rose Bowl the year before! I think things like that are really important to know. You can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. Learning the history of the program in that sort of way, was something that was really evident that I was going to have to do, coming in after such a legendary guy like that.
MS: Do you talk to Bob regularly? How’s he doing?
TC: He’s doing great, I actually saw him this past weekend. I don’t talk to him that often but I know he’s just enjoying retirement, he and his wife Molly are just enjoying living life post retirement for him. I love getting to see him. It’s amazing to me that 6 years after this job, that he still carries this gravitas when he enters the room, and you know that the great Bob Rondeau has entered when he comes into a room. He’s such a cool guy, I look up to him a lot.
MS: Let’s talk football! With all the returning talent this season, particularly on offense, what do you think the ceiling is for this team?
TC: What do I think the ceiling is, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what the players say the ceiling is, is National Championship, that’s what they’re shooting for. I’ve been around a lot of teams before, and not a whole lot of teams are comfortable saying that, I think this team is. And I think the reason that they’re comfortable saying that is because they know the work they’re putting in, and they know the quality surrounding them, and they know what the standard is within the program and so, I think for those reasons, they’re feeling really confident that, if they continue to approach things the way that they know how: one day at a time, one rep at a time, and just follow the gameplan that’s laid out by coaches that they trust, that they’re going to have a chance to accomplish some truly special things. If that’s what they believe, I take them at their word.
MS: How similar is this team to the 2016-17 team that made the playoff?
TC: Interesting question! Ways that they’d be similar: explosive in the passing game, when Jake Browning threw for 43 touchdowns, John Ross had that 200 yard game-
MS: What did he (Browning) have in the Oregon game? Something like 430 yards and 7 touchdowns?
TC: Just silly, right?
MS: Video game numbers!
TC: 6 touchdown passes because that’s the school record, but still, video game numbers. John Ross had 200 yards at Cal that year when they scored 66 points down there. They’ve got not just one but multiple wide receivers, because of course that team had Pettis too, so they’re going to have a lot of options in an explosive passing game. I’d say a difference offensively is, Myles Gaskin was really the feature back that year, and now you’re probably going to have more of a back by committee.
MS: Probably have 2 or 3 really good running backs.
TC: Right. Now, on the defensive side of the ball, I think-last year, they had talent, but they had a hard time staying healthy. I think this year, they’re going to have a little bit more depth so, how does this defense compare? I don’t see a Vita Vea, and I don’t see a secondary that’s going to have as many top draft picks, imminently. But we don’t know, these guys might turn into that.
MS: We don’t know that, I mean Jabbar Muhammad’s coming, looked great in Spring Practice.
TC: Elijah Jackson’s got the potential, right? He’s an amazing athlete. I really like Davon Banks, and what he brings. And then you’ve got real veteran guys at that nickel position with Meesh Powell, your safeties are Asa Turner and Dominique Hampton, guys who have played a lot of football at Washington. So, I think the defense is going to be loaded but in a, kind of a different way. I think on special teams, maybe they’re a little bit less proven on special teams. John Ross, Dante Pettis, amazing returners.
MS: Yeah, you don’t have that one-maybe Germie Bernard can do it because he was the returner at Michigan State?
TC: And Giles Jackson housed 2 kickoffs when he was at Michigan, so he’s capable. Now we just need to see that kind of come to fruition and I think the placekicking and the punting, we still have to see some growth there, out of some guys that really haven’t done it at this level yet.
MS: What is your opinion on realignment and what are you most excited for, for what should be the PAC 12’s final season as it exists currently?
TC: I think, there’s a variety of ways you can look at this, and I think the range of emotions that a lot of fans are feeling are all pretty valid. I think if there’s some heartbreak to see the traditions come to an end that we’ve known for 108 years of being a member of this group of teams, I think that’s totally valid. I think also, if you’re looking ahead to the future and really excited about creating some new rivalries with some really elite brands and programs, I think that’s a valid thing to feel as well. So, what are my opinions on it? It’s part of the sport, and it’s not up to any one school or organization, as to whether or not it happens. It’s happening. And I think Washington’s really fortunate for it to be happening in a really positive and healthy way for its future, where it now is getting to join one of the elite conferences there is in the country.
MS: But then also, I feel like there’s a lot of regionality that’s going to go by the wayside and maybe we as fans need to accept that. But I also think it’s valid to mourn for what was, but be excited for what might be.
TC: I agree. To think that we’re not going to go to Stanford, to Cal, to Arizona, Arizona State, to Corvalis, to Pullman, hopefully Pullman. Hopefully they find a way to continue the Apple Cup, but it’s going to be different. There’s no question about it. And different doesn’t always necessarily feel better at first.
MS: Who are you most excited for the Huskies to play in the Big Ten next year?
TC: Any of them. All of them. It’s all going to be a new experience, and it’s all going to be exciting!
MS: How much communication do you have with the football staff, do you have a lot? Does Coach Deboer make anybody available to you specifically?
TC: For a couple of things. When we have specific things that our network is doing, like the coaches pregame interview and stuff like that. Those are little extra touch points that I get in addition to the general media time when the rest of the media gets to talk to the players. But also we travel with the team, which is a really great experience to kind of just get to see people’s personalities behind the scenes a little bit. You get to see how they carry themselves, and how they approach their business in a way that not all of the reporters get to.
MS: What have you noticed about the culture shift within the program under Coach Deboer?
TC: Gosh, what haven’t I noticed? Everything is noticeably positive.
TC: And I think, what I’ve heard from Coach Deboer, as to what’s important to him, and what he wants his programs to be all about. I hear those same things repeated by the assistant coaches, and then I hear those same things repeated by the players, and then I see everybody bought into the vision, as to what this thing can be. And when you’re able to get any large organization aligned, and moving in the same direction together as one unit, as one team, amazing things can happen. That’s where, I think we’ve got a great leader. Like, one of the all time great leaders that I’ve been around, in Kalen Deboer running this program. Because of his ability to, and it’s not an easy thing to do, and a lot of people know that it’s important, but their efforts fall a little short, his ability to get everybody on board, everybody bought into a vision, and playing their role to move forward with that, and to see what they can accomplish, I think that’s a huge reason this team’s been so successful so far and why I think we’re just scratching the surface.
MS: Alright Tony, one more question: Your favorite Husky football player of all time?
TC: Well, I’m going to answer this by only going through the sample size of the last six years for the people that I’ve actually gotten to be around a little bit. Because there’s no shortage of amazing options pre-2017. But, my ability to get to be around these guys a little bit, get to know their personalities, get to call their games, get to see them grow, I would have to say...AGH! This is so hard, but I’ll give you a handful. Edefuan Ulofoshio, I love his story. His first play, where he ever made it onto the field in college football, was on special teams, and he forced a fumble on that play, and I was like “the ball got popped loose. And it looks like the Huskies recovered!” And Damon (Huard) goes, “It looks like the fumble was forced by #48, who’s #48”? (To Damon) Do you remember that? Because he was a walk on from Alaska, and it was the tenth game of the season and it was his first time out there. So, I just love his story, he could’ve gotten a scholarship offer to a couple different schools, he decided he wanted to walk on to the UW instead, he worked hard to get on the field. He made an instant impact when he had his opportunity, he earned a scholarship. He was a preseason All American going into 2021. He dealt with adversity, he dealt with injuries, he got a meaningful degree in Global Health. He is now getting ready to be a sixth year senior on what might be an all time great Husky team. I think Edefuan Ulofoshio is tied up there with a lot of other guys as a great candidate for an all time Husky.