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My favorite Huskies, Part I
Malamute, 23 May 2005

Hugh McElhenny as a 49'er. Photo by Frank Rippon

George Wilson may be the greatest of the greats, but I can only comment on those Husky players I have been fortunate enough to see in person. That leaves out Chuck Carroll and one of the ancients I love to read about, "Wee" Coyle, who played for Gil Dobie.

Although the players in my list may not be the best of all time, these are the ones that brought me to my feet more often than not. Others worked silently in the trenches, sharing responsibility for the success of a great running back. Still others played on the defensive side of the ball.

Here are my first five favorites, regardless of position. Curiously, all of their last names could be a lesson in spelling. This list, which dates back to World War II, will be continued on in the next installment.

1. RB Hugh McElhenny, 1949-1951

Each time Hurricane Hugh touched the ball, he brought tachycardia and arrhythmia to the fans, to both friends and foes alike. Each of his heart-stopping carries threatened to take it to the house. He could turn a five-yard run into bullying mayhem, a ten-yard run into a bad guy's worst nightmare. His longer runs were things of beauty, like a slalom skier brushing poles during a twisting downhill run. The king of prepositions and adulations, Hugh could run over you, through you, around you and beyond you.

Depending on the urgency of the situation, his strong legs could be the thrusting pistons of a Mac Truck or carry him with the speed of an Indianapolis race car. His punishing stiff arm was a left jab out of the 1945 Joe Louis exhibition in Seattle.

In the late forties and early fifties, Seattle was a minor league town that needed a big-league athlete and McElhenny was a big-time player that put Seattle on the map.

I’ll never forget Hurricane Hugh racing the opening kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown against the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis near the beginning of the 1949 season. His lightening gallop--a seminal run in my Husky ana--shocked the partisan crowd, electrified Husky fans and emblazoned “SEATTLE” boldly onto the map. Was it Ted Bell who called that game?

During his era, McElhenny was one of college football’s biggest, fastest running backs. His mean streak on the field belied his friendliness off the field. Hurrying Hugh rescued a provincial seaport town from obscurity. As of now, the King lives on in perpetuity, as my greatest of the greats.

Here's a link to a video of Hugh's running style, a style that labeled him as the King of broken-field runners.

The King is a member of the prestigious Pro Football Hall of Fame (inducted in 1970), the College Football Hall of Fame (inducted in 1982) and the Washington Hall of Fame (inaugural group in 1979). He was also selected to the Washington Centennial team in 1990. He is also a member of the East-West Shrine Game Hall of Fame, having played in the 1951 classic. McElhenny was honored as Seattle’s Man of the Year for Sports in 1951.

Also reference: The untold story of Hugh McElhenny, the king of Montlake

2.  QB Marques Tuiasosopo, 1997-2000

Vatia, American Samoa is the source of the Tuiasosopo name worldwide.

Marques' grandfather, Chief Asovalu Tuiasosopo, presides over the Vatian village of 800 and is one of six living men holding the rank of High Talking Chief.

His grandson, the Warrior, was a dual-threat quarterback who brought leadership and inspiration to his team. Marques led the Huskies to a win over Purdue in the 2001 Rose Bowl. Also, his record setting day and the “Drive,” with acknowledgement to John Elway, are worthy of mention.

The University of Washington Junior quarterback, who had been penciled in as a defensive back on most 1997 recruiting charts, proved again he could pass as well as run in a record-setting day against Stanford in 1999.

Against the Tree,  Tuiasosopo, passed for 302 yards and ran for 207 yards, becoming the first player in NCAA Division I-A history to rush for 200 yards and pass for 300 in the same game.

Tui and the Dawgs won the game 35-30.

A year later, the Warrior brought the Huskies back against Stanford in the last 47 seconds of the game, behind 28-24, their hopes of getting to the Rose Bowl seemingly dashed by a relentless rain storm and the demoralizing effects of what appeared to be a life-threatening injury to DB Curtis Williams.

On the sidelines, Tui told his offense, "He's a warrior. Look up the definition of a Husky and you'd find the name Curtis Williams. He'd want us to win the game."

On the “Drive,” Tuiasosopo made his three longest completions of the game, 27 yards to Todd Elstrom, 31 yards to Wilbur Hooks and, with 17 seconds left on the clock, 22 yards to Justin Robbins for the winning score, 31-28.

One of the Huskies' fiercest competitor's of all time, Tuiasospo's proud Samoan lineage speaks both for his desire to win and for all of the fourth-quarter comebacks engineered during his career at Washington.

A close call for number one, Marques, like the King, is descended from royal stalk.

3. RB Napolean Kaufman, 1991-1994

Napolean Kaufman’s sensational kickoff returns as a freshman in 1991 were previews of his career at Washington and of one of the Dawgs' greatest games.

Nip's pumping legs have been likened to sewing machine needles at work, his bulging biceps being patently obvious.

Nip went on to be the Dawgs' career rushing leader, amassing 4106 net yards. During his four-year career, he averaged 89.3 yards per game, while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. His rushing yards per game ties him with McElhenny as the Huskies' leader in that category (minimum of 18 games).

In 1994, Kaufman ran for 211 yards against Ohio State, and the Huskies beat the Buckeyes at home, 25-16. The next game, the Huskies took to the road and upset the mighty Miami Hurricanes 38-20, snapping the ‘Canes 58-game home winning streak. The "Whammy in Miami," as it has been called, is a legendary win in Husky history.

One of the Huskies’ fastest ever, Nip ran a 4.31 electronically timed 40; also, he benched 425 pounds. Loyal to the program and Coach Jim Lambright, he returned for his senior season in 1994, even though the Huskies were bowl ineligible and suffering the effects of bloated recruiting sanctions. 

In short, Nip was just plain, dawgerrific.

4. QB Bob Schloredt, 1957-1960

I remember a reporter and his photographer interviewing and photographing Schloredt as he stood by the equipment he’d set up for a lab experiment in physics. The flash bulbs that popped off that day supplied the volts for the lightning that energized the Husky football program two years later in 1959.

Later in the fall quarter, on a cold, cloudy day, I watched Schloredt lead the freshmen team to a rout of the Coubabes, the freshmen team from Washington State College.

The “One-eyed Quarterback,” was more than just a dual-threat quarterback. In the days of one-platoon football, he could punt and play solid defense, too. On October 17, 1959, his dual against Willie Wood, the Pac-10’s first black quarterback, is scripted in one of Husky Stadium’s greatest games. It pitted dual-threat quarterbacks whose defensive play was as important as their contributions on offense. In the cliff hanger all the way, the Huskies (10-1) lost their only game of the season, 22-15, to USC (8-2).

By winning the 1960 Rose Bowl against Wisconsin, 44-8, Schloredt’s team also ended 13 years of embarrassment for the old Pacific Coast Conference (then the AAWU), which had made a regular habit of losing to the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl, having lost 12 of the previous 13 games.

Schloredt holds the Husky record for average yards per punt, 57.0, set by his 6 punts for 342 yards against Colorado in 1959.

Schloredt was the 1960 and 1961 Rose Bowl MVP. He was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame in 1981 and into the National Foundation College Hall of Fame in 1989.

What could the "One-eyed Quarterback" have done with two working orbs?

5. QB Don Heinrich, 1949-1952

Hailing from Bremerton, Washington, Don Heinrich came to the University of Washington in 1949. He sat out the 1951 season because of a shoulder separation.

In the same backfield with Roland Kirkby and Hugh McElhenny, Heinrich helped Washington post an 8-2 record in 1950, the Huskies’ most successful season within the 13-year period beginning in 1946 and ending in 1958. During those 13 lean years, Washington posted a record of 52 wins, 71 losses, and 5 ties.

In his first varsity season, 1950, the "Arm" was named to the Associated Press All American team. In that year, Heinrich completed an NCAA-record 134 passes, with a 60.6% completion percentage.

In 1952, he again led the nation in passing with 137 completions and finished his Husky career with 4392 yards and 33 touchdowns.

Heinrich played seven seasons in the National Football league with the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.

Heinrich was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Husky Hall of Fame in 1981.

After his playing career ended, Heinrich coached with the Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers over a span of 15 seasons.

Heinrich went on to a successful broadcasting career, mostly as a color man, doing games for the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers, ESPN, and the Washington Huskies.

In 1992, Heinrich died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. He fought the disease with the courage and dignity he had shown the sports world.

Born in 1930, Heinrich played sandlot football at the age of 10 -- like most boys growing up in the state of Washington at the time. A natural leader, he drew plays in the sand with complicated crossing routes and button hooks. Don Heinrich will always be a Husky legend.

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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