Every once in a while, a teammate’s spectacular play is well worth 500 push-ups.
Jomon “Juice” Dotson is one of those guys everybody at the University of Washington cheers for, especially since he puts the team before any individual glory.
So when the junior from California, in just his second game after switching from running back to cornerback, picked off a Reese Phillips pass and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter of the Huskies’ 63-7 win over Montana on Saturday, the sideline erupted.
The UW players were so happy, they joined him for an end zone celebration. Since it is a team rule not to ever leave the sideline, each player who did incurred a penalty of 500 push-ups.
For Dotson, it was like watching a purple-and-gold clad cavalry doing in-sync exercises. So he joined them in the punishment — well for at least 200 of them.
“Everybody was happy — linebackers, wide receivers, defensive backs, tight ends,” Dotson said. “(Defensive tackle) Vita Vea ... jumped in and gave me a handshake.”
Dotson, the fastest guy on the UW team (4.34-second 40-yard time), could have just stayed with the running back group and continued to get occasional work, like he did last season when he rushed for 260 yards playing behind Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman.
But a few months after the season ended, knowing that the UW secondary was about to lose three starters to the NFL — cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Kevin King, and safety Budda Baker — he asked coach Chris Petersen if he could switch to a position group based on the team’s need.
“It was my idea to go over there and give it a shot,” Dotson said.
Raw and inexperienced, Dotson ran with the third-string unit during spring camp. And when a group of talented true freshmen, notably Keith Taylor and Elijah Molden, came in during the preseason, Dotson fell further down the depth chart.
But Huskies’ co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said Dotson continues to rapidly improve.
“He’s been all-in, and dialed-in to learn the techniques,” Lake said.
And, of course, he has all of that horsepower, too.
“Obviously his speed is his asset,” Huskies safety Taylor Rapp said. “He has got great recovery speed.”
Dotson was in the right place at the right time along the right sideline when Phillips threw in his direction on Saturday.
“I was able to pick it off,” Dotson said. “In my mind, I said, ‘I have to score.’ I didn’t want anybody to take me down.”
He broke toward the left sideline, stiff-arming Montana’s Alijah Lee along the way. When he got there, he saw lots of bodies, so he reversed field to where it all started, stiff-arming Lee again.
“That was his first interception at any level,” Lake said. “His heart rate was up.”
Seeing daylight, he barreled down the right sideline, right in front of Petersen, who noticed his speedster slowing down.
“I’ve never seen a guy get so tired in my entire life on an interception,” Petersen said. “He’s got the goal-line staring at him, and that monkey jumped on his back, and Jomon was getting choked. But at least he got across the goal-line.”
Dotson estimated he covered 150 yards on that play.
“I think like a (defensive back) now, but when the ball is in my hands, it is all running back,” Dotson said.
Senior Dante Pettis was named the Pac-12 special teams performer of the week for returning a punt 67 yards for a TD against the Grizzlies. ... Pro Football Focus grades player in each conference, and former Lincoln High School product Jusstis Warren received the highest team grade on defense against Montana (90.3). Warren rated as the second-best linebacker in the conference behind WSU’s Peyton Pelluer.