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Original Issue

This Is No Average Joe Free-spirited, risk-taking Joe Jarzynka is Washington's jack-of-all-trades

A few days after Rick Neuheisel took over as coach at Washington
in January, he met with his players to introduce himself and
discuss recruiting. He explained that the signing date was
nearing and asked if anyone wouldn't be around the following
weekend to host recruits. Only Joe Jarzynka, a senior wide
receiver-kick returner-placekicker, raised his hand. "I won't be
here," he said. "I already have plans to go skiing." Neuheisel
was taken aback and shot Jarzynka an inquisitive look. "But,
Coach, three girls are taking me up to Whistler," Jarzynka
explained, sending his teammates into fits of laughter.

Whether returning kicks in his kamikaze style (he refuses to
fair catch) or barreling down ski slopes, the 5'7", 175-pound
Jarzynka is no average Joe. Last season he surprised everyone
except himself by returning 61 kicks for 731 yards and a
touchdown, including seven for a Pac-10 single-game-record 166
yards against Cal. When the Huskies were having problems with
their placekicking last fall, Jarzynka volunteered for the job
and converted 19 of 22 point-after attempts and six of eight
field goal tries, the longest from 44 yards. He was voted
All-Pac-10 as an all-purpose player after leading Washington
with 849 total yards and 49 points.

But Jarzynka wasn't satisfied, because he saw only spot duty as
a receiver. "Last year I proved I can play," he says, "but
there's a lot more I can do. Everybody thinks it's a feel-good
fairy tale of this scrawny walk-on. People think I'm thanking
the Lord for my miracle, but I don't see it that way. I'm doing
exactly what I set out to do."

Well, sort of. Jarzynka grew up following Notre Dame and dreamed
of playing for the Fighting Irish. He was named second-team
all-state as a receiver following his senior season at Gig
Harbor (Wash.) High, but most colleges shied away from him
because of his size. Eastern Washington was the only school to
offer him a scholarship, and his hopes of walking on at Notre
Dame were dashed when he didn't meet admission standards.

He was invited to walk on at Washington, but the first time
Jarzynka entered the Huskies' locker room, an assistant coach
asked him if he was a manager. Undeterred, he bugged coaches to
give him a chance, and he did anything he could to get on the
field. He returned six punts and a dozen kickoffs as a redshirt
freshman in 1996. The following season he returned 13 punts and
eight kickoffs, and caught two passes.

Jarzynka has developed a cultlike following on campus because of
his guts, diminutive stature and free-spirited nature. He has a
pierced tongue. He studies psychology not because he wants to
become a psychologist but because he enjoys the subject. "Joe
won't allow himself to be consumed by football, and he seems to
find time to fit everything in," says Neuheisel. "He is so full
of confidence--in a positive way--he doesn't realize that he is
too small to play this game. But the way he sees it, this is
Joe's world, and he's not going to get cheated in it." --B.J.