As if senior Dante Pettis doesn’t touch the football enough for the Washington Huskies, he claims there are more opportunities to be had.
It’s not in the passing game; Pettis already leads the team with his 27 catches.
It’s not in the punt-return game. With three touchdowns this season, Pettis is the nation’s most dangerous returner.
Then where at?
As he touched his shoulder, a wide grin came over his face.
“I’ve been saying we need to put me in at Wildcat (quarterback) and just let me have a whole package of running play-action passes, and all of that stuff,” Pettis said. “Coach Pete (Chris Petersen) is not big into it because I cannot run between the tackles.”
What Petersen is very fond is something he stores away in a special chapter of his playbook, the double pass.
That does work out in Pettis’ favor.
Even as far back to his days as the offensive coordinator and coach at Boise State, Petersen has always shown a penchant for trickery by utilizing running backs and wide receivers as passers.
During his first seven seasons (2006-12) as the Broncos’ coach, non-quarterbacks threw at least one touchdown pass every year — and 10 total.
One of them was wide receiver Austin Pettis, Dante’s cousin, who threw two touchdowns in 2010.
“He threw it a lot, so I was like, ‘All right, I have got to get my arm ready,’ ” Dante Pettis said. “I had an idea going (into UW) that Coach Pete liked doing it, and I was hoping it would be me.”
In 2014, Petersen’s first season with the Huskies, former wide receiver Marvin Hall completed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Josh Perkins against Arizona.
The next season, Hall did it again, completing a 27-yarder to Perkins against former coach Steve Sarkisian and USC.
“Anytime you can throw a little bit of creativity into the mix, players kind of naturally gravitate to it,” UW tight ends coach Jordan Paopao said. “It brings its own energy.”
Last season, it was Pettis’ turn. He completed two of four passes for 89 yards. One of those completions was a 39-yard touchdown to tight end Darrell Daniels late in the first quarter of UW’s 66-27 victory at California in Berkeley.
Pettis was called on again in the Huskies’ third game this season to throw a pass. It came on the opening play against Fresno State, and he completed a 36-yarder to tight end Hunter Bryant.
On all five of Pettis’ passing attempts, the first read was to a tight end. In the Apple Cup, Pettis did look away from Daniels and throw to tailback Myles Gaskin coming out of the backfield.
“Sometimes, it is easier to hide (tight ends),” UW co-offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. “But we have other stuff that goes to a running back or wide receiver.”
For his first 11 seasons as a coach, Petersen used multiple skill-position players to attempt a pass. But since last season, Pettis is the only non-quarterback to take a shot at it.
“He has got a proven track record of making really good decisions with the ball,” Smith said. “You build trust with a guy.”
Pettis jokingly brags that he has the best arm of all the non-quarterbacks. With his background — Pettis’ father, Gary, was a major-league center fielder — that is easy to believe.
He also says when there are throwing competitions, he backs up his claim.
“It is a monopoly — I am going to win every time,” Pettis said. “I show them no mercy.”
Based on Petersen’s track record of calling no fewer than four non-quarterback passes in a season, the Huskies are due to try another one — perhaps real soon.
And Pettis hopes he will continue to be the one the coaching staff chooses.
“I love throwing the ball,” Pettis said. “Whenever (Petersen) wants to, all he has to say is, ‘Dante, let’s go.’ Until then, I don’t really know when that is.”