LAS VEGAS — One reason Desmond Trufant chose to become a Washington Husky was to chart his own course.
That doesn’t mean he was ever running from the family name created by older brothers Marcus, a star at Washington State before entering a long career with the Seahawks, and Isaiah, who played at Eastern Washington and is now with the New York Jets.
The family legacy, he said “was more of a motivation than pressure. I saw all their success and it made me work even harder to get to that point.”
And as he enters his final college game with Saturday’s MAACO Bowl Las Vegas against Boise State at 12:30 p.m., he appears on track to reaching that destination — if not having gone down the exact same road.
Trufant was the only Husky named to the All-Pac-12 first team as a cornerback, turning in a season that has him seemingly certain to be taken in the NFL draft next April. The only question is how high.
“There’s not an elite senior corner this year and he’s right now in the mix to be the second or third highest-rated cornerback,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said last week. “He has great blood lines, a very athletic kid, just a solid, solid football player who seems to relish being out on that island in man-to-man situations. He’s the kind of guy in the second- and third-round areas where you would expect him to come off the board.”
One way in which Trufant hopes to follow the same road as Marcus is in what happens now. Marcus Trufant was also a first-team, all-conference pick as a senior at Washington State in 2002, and then used a solid performance at the Senior Bowl to vault into the first round — he was taken by the Seahawks with the 11th overall pick of the 2003 draft.
Desmond Trufant was recently invited to the Senior Bowl (which will be played Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala.) and hopes to replicate Marcus’ performance.
“It’s kind of ironic because I feel like we are kind of on the same path now where he was coming out of his senior year,” Desmond Trufant said.
Desmond Trufant also recently was honored as UW’s Guy Flaherty Award winner for 2012, considered the school’s most prestigious award, given annually to the player judged as the most inspirational in a vote of teammates.
Coaches say it couldn’t have gone to anyone more deserving. UW coach Steve Sarkisian called Trufant’s season “awesome.” He recalled recently that “the day I got this job” he started the process of recruiting Trufant, a graduate of Wilson High in Tacoma who was also seriously considering Arizona State in the fall of 2008, with UW’s future uncertain in the midst of an 0-12 season and coaching change.
Trufant has since started 47 games, moving into the lineup in the first month of his true freshman season. “He probably got thrown into the fire a little earlier than he should have been,” Sarkisian said. “But he had some real learning experiences.”
Those paid off this season when the Huskies were often able to rely on Trufant to play man coverage against an opponent’s best receiver.
“It allows you to do some things that maybe are a little more creative with your coverage in rolling different things to the field and whatnot, to commit yourself to defending the run a bit more and adding people to the box,” Sarkisian said.
Trufant liked the added responsibility, especially playing more man in the schemes of first-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.
“It’s a lot more man, a lot more pressure,” he said. “I just feel like it fits how I play as an athlete.”
Wilcox returns the favor saying he was impressed throughout the season by “the way he prepares, pays attention, asks questions, He really wants to be a good football player. All the intangible things that people probably don’t know and I think that’s what really makes him a special guy. I haven’t seen all the other corners out there in college football but there is no one I would trade him for.”
The season wasn’t perfect. Trufant suffered a hamstring injury late in the year that caused him to be slowed against California and Utah and sit out the Colorado game. He was among those Huskies who got flagged for some costly penalties down the stretch of the Apple Cup loss, in which UW blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead.
“We are thinking about that last game and how we let that slip away,” Trufant said. “So we’ve got a lot to prove and we are going to try to go out there and make a statement.”