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My favorite Huskies, Part II
Malamute, 30 May 2005


Sonny Sixkiller at Husky Band Day, 2004

I've been a fan of Husky football since World War II. Over that time, I've been fortunate to watch many great Huskies in action. On the list of my first five favorites were Hugh McElhenny, Marques Tuiasosopo, Napolean Kaufman, Bob Schloredt and Don Heinrich. 

Regardless of position, here are my second five Huskies most fun to watch.

 

6. QB Sonny Sixkiller, 1970 – 1972

Because of Sonny’s affableness and his presence in the Seattle area, I’m sure that a lot of Husky fans have their own Sixkiller anecdotes to tell.

Here are mine.

Last August, at the Huskies training camp at Evergreen State College, I told the P-I’s Ted Miller I was going to the Band Day function and wanted to interview Sonny Sixkiller -- who was presiding over the function-- for an article I had in mind. “Is Sixkiller going to buzz me off?” I asked him.

“Nah,” he answered, “He’ll be more than happy to answer any questions.” Miller told me that Bob Condotta and Sixkiller had written a book about Sonny’s days at Washington. Later on, I picked it up, read it and found it worth adding to my Husky library.

Sixkiller is a genuinely nice person and, no, he didn’t buzz me off at Band Day, graciously answering my questions. Later, at the San Jose State game, I ran into Sonny in the Huskies’ press box. He remembered the Band Day jacket I’d bid on and won, and told me it looked good on me. Sonny will do and say anything for a sale, as long as it helps the Huskies.

In 1970, Sonny Sixkiller had the unenviable task of rescuing a team that had finished 1-9 the year before. Ironically, as a Native American, he would be an on-field catalyst that would help lead Washington out of its racial turmoil that had occurred over a span of three years, from 1968 through 1970. 

During his sophomore year in 1970, Sixkiller led the nation in passing, averaging 18.6 completions per game, the metric used to pick the champion then; the Huskies finished 6-4, in what was a most respectable turnaround from the season before. Sixkiller added two 8-3 seasons before finishing his career at Washington in 1972.

Sixkiller is only one of three Huskies to have made the cover of Sports Illustrated, appearing on the cover of its October 4, 1971 issue. Bitten by the SI jinx, Sixkiller’s Huskies lost to Stanford 17-6 the next week, having started 4-0 on the season. Commenting on that game, Sonny says, “I never had time to throw, and we couldn’t run the ball.” The Huskies had just one rushing first down all day, which at that time tied a school record.* The loss to Stanford kept the UW from appearing in the Rose Bowl.

His most memorable game was against Purdue at West Lafayette, Indiana in 1972. Down 21-0 at halftime, the Huskies roared back with 22 unanswered second-half points to win 22-21. About that game Sixkiller graciously said, “One of the keys was our base defense. It really stopped a good Purdue team that also included running back Otis Armstrong, who ended up leading the NFL in rushing a few years later.” *

Sonny set 15 team passing records during his career at the UW. He passed for 5496 total yards on 811 attempts and 385 completions, with 35 touchdowns and 51 interceptions. Although Sixkiller has thrown more interceptions over his career than any other UW quarterback, his career pass efficiency stands at 106.06, which is remarkable, indeed, considering his touchdown to interception ratio. 

Also, it must be remembered that his Coach Jim Owens went from a run-oriented offense to one that was pass-oriented under Sonny, and the transition was not seamless. There was no running game to support Sixkiller in many of his games.

Sixkiller is fifth on the all time list for total career passing yards, behind Cody Pickett, Brock Huard, Damon Huard and Marques Tuiasosopo, respectively. In career passing yards-per-game, Sixkiller is second to Pickett, having averaged 196.3 yards per game. He is second in career-yards-per-catch (14.8 yards) behind Chris Rowland.

Some notable distinctions separate Sixkiller from many past Husky greats: he was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame in 1985; acted in the movie “The Longest yard,” which starred Burt Reynolds; is the subject of ballad written by a Seattle DJ, called, “The Ballad of Sonny Sixkiller;” and appeared on the SI cover.

As for Jim Owens, he says, "I know there was some controversy about how Coach Owens treated some players, but as far as I saw it, he was always fair with everybody...I mean, I have to give him a lot of credit for taking a skinny kid out of Ashland, Oregon and letting him throw the football around. I'll always be proud of that.” *

Currently, he is an analyst for Fox Sports Net.

* Quotes taken from the book: Sonny Sixkiller with Bob Condotta, “Sonny Sixkiller’s Tales from the Huskies Sideline,” Sports Publishing, L.LC. 2004.

Factoid: Pictured in a small insert, DT Steve Emtman made the cover of Sports Illustrated on April 27, 1992. QB Bob Schloredt made the cover in 1960. “A week later, the heavily favored Huskies lost to Navy when the Middies scored in the final minutes following Schloredt's fumble of -- you guessed it -- a snap.”

7. Steve Emtman, DL, 1989-1991

Emtman was the Rock of Gibraltar every defensive line coach dreams about. At 300 pounds, arguably Emtman was the fastest big man to ever play for the UW. In the UW’s national championship season of 1991, he registered 6.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss. In 1991, the defense allowed just 9.2 points per game and 67.1 yards per game rushing. The Huskies dominated Michigan 34-14 in the 1992 Rose Bowl.

A number one draft pick by Indianapolis, Emtman suffered two debilitating knee injuries that prematurely ended his pro career.

Career Awards

Lombardi Award - 1991
Outland Trophy - 1991
Heisman Trophy - 4th in 1991
Washington Hall of Fame - 1999
1st Team All-Pac 10 - 1990, 1991
Pac 10 Lineman of the Year - 1990, 1991
Consensus All-America - 1991
All-America - 1990

8. Arnie Weinmeister (UW DT/OT, FB, End; 6-4, 235; 1941-’42, 1946-’47)

Not many people living in this country after World War II could be called fat when compared with today’s well-fed Americans. Most of the college football players were lean and sinewy, and not heavily muscled.

Nevertheless, this skinny Husky fan growing up in Seattle, had a Leviathan to look up to and to crow about.

At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Arnie Weinmeister was one of college football’s biggest players of his time, and maybe one of the Huskies’ most versatile athletes of all time considering his size.

Weinmeister played football for Washington in 1941 and 1942. After a tour in the Army during World War II, he enrolled at Washington in 1946. During his career at Washington, he played offensive tackle, defensive tackle, fullback and end. Because of his speed and versatility, he played defensive tackle in the professional ranks.

Weinmeister is one of Washington's legends of the forties, a list that includes Hugh McElhenny, George Bayer, Don Heinrich, Roland Kirkby and Don Coryell.

As a fullback, Weinmeister played in one of Washington’s most memorable games, when, in 1946, Coach Jim Phelan of the Saint Mary’s Gaels returned to Husky Stadium to seek revenge, so history says, for being fired from his coaching job at Washington. His Gaels were led by Herman Wedemeyer, the "Hawaiian Centipede."

After Phelan was fired from Washington in 1941, he said he’d gotten “another Pearl Harbor deal.” Coincidentally, Wedemeyer was trapped on the island of Kauai with the St. Louis High School football team during the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Photo credit of Wedemeyer; "Illustrated Football," 1946.)

Some say Phelan was fired for his drinking patterns; however, no one at Washington would acknowledge that he was fired for imbibing too much.

A friend of mine who played on the Wedemeyer team said the players called Phelan, “Whisky Jim.” The fact he allegedly tippled a few didn’t interfere with his quest to seek revenge for his firing.

During the revenge game, Wedey scored on a 53-yard run to open the scoring in the first quarter. However, the Huskies took a 14-6 lead into the intermission.

Arnie rumbled off tackle for 56 yards to set up his own touchdown plunge of one yard, which gave the Huskies a 20-12 lead going into the fourth quarter. The Gaels scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to give Phelan his revenge, a 24-20 victory over the Dawgs, in a game that pitted Wedey versus Arnie.

The friend of mine, who, incidentally, twisted his ankle in the game, still talks about the crown, which facilitated drainage, running down the center of the field at Husky Stadium. “You couldn’t see the bench on the other side of the field because of that high crown.”

He remembers tackling Weinmeister, saying he was a load to bring down, literally, at times, an 18-wheeler running down hill -- with gravitational acceleration.

“Pest” Welch who coached the UW at that time, got his revenge over Phelan a year later, when the Huskies beat Saint Mary’s 26-6.

After his playing career was over, Wedemeyer acted in the Hawaii Five-O television series, playing the role of Duke Lukela. He passed away in 1999.

In the late forties, Phelan coached the professional Los Angeles Dons and the New York Yankees in the American football conference and later went into the real-estate business in Sacramento.

Weinmeister was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984. He played for the New York Yankees (1948, AAFC), the Brooklyn-New York Yankees (1949, AAFC) and the New York Giants (1950-1954). He was Rookie of the Year in 1948 and was widely considered as the fastest lineman in Pro football.

Weinmeister was all-AFFC in 1949 and All-NFL in 1950-1953. He was named to four Pro Bowls.  He was Seattle’s Man of the Year in Sports in 1953, and was enshrined in the Husky Hall of Fame in 1982.

He was born in Rhein, Saskatchewan, Canada.

9. Guard, LB Rick Redman, 1962- 1964

I can’t say enough about Rick Redman – in part, because of his steadfast loyalty to the program. Of course, his heroics on the playing field speak loudly for his legendary status. At Husky Stadium, Rick’s play on a muddy field before fans hidden by umbrellas is paralleled by a few mud balls thrown at him by a few members of today’s media.

Redman was named to the UW all-time team in 1969; he was a two-time consensus all-American in 1963 and 1964 and enshrined in the College Football Hall of fame in 1995.

Rick played guard and linebacker at Washington and linebacker in the pros.

Over his 3-year career at Washington, the versatile Redman averaged 37.6 yards per punt.

He was a member of the 1964 Rose Bowl team, which lost to Illinois and Dick Butkus, 17-7. Gayle Sayers, Butkus, and John Huarte were on the same 1963 consensus all-American team.

Next time I see Butkus at the golf club I’m going to ask him about Redman. How’s that for name dropping?

Along with Ron Crockett, Redman, as of today, is one of Washington’s most prominent boosters. He was on the 1999 selection committee that, along with AD Barbara Hedges and Crockett, picked Rick Neuheisel to replace Jim Lambright as Washington’s head football coach. So, the media muddies Redman up at times. Big deal.

Redman played 9 years as a linebacker with the San Diego Chargers. He is chairman of Sellen Construction Company of Seattle.

10. RB Willie Hurst, 1998-2001

To be a member of my pantheon of Husky greats requires more than setting a rushing record or being a Joe Banana—the biggest, fastest guy on the field. Having heart, emotion and chutzpah will get you in. During his four-year stint at Washington, Willie Hurst—number 8—was always my favorite player to watch.  

Along with being the offensive MVP at the Husky awards banquet in 2001, he won the “Guy Flaherty Most Inspirational” award. He should be an inspiration to us all.

Hurst set a true freshman rushing record at Washington in 1998, compiling 538 yards rushing, which was good enough to break Joe Steele’s record set in 1976. True freshman Rich Alexis broke Hurst’s record two years later.  

During his sophomore season, Hurst ran for 546 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

Some of Hurst’s bursts will be legendary, like the spin move during his 23-yard touchdown run against Arizona (2000 season). Willie’s "whirl" won him the “National Play of the Week” honors from CNN/SI. It will be shown on UW highlight tapes for years to come. That run followed his 65-yard touchdown that brought the crowd back into the game.

Following the Arizona game and the "whirl," he had 11 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown against UCLA, before breaking his collarbone at the end of a 62-yard run.

He finished the season playing in the Rose bowl, where he ran for 53 yards to help beat Purdue 34-24. His eight-yard touchdown run late in the game helped cement the victory.

He averaged 6.1 yards per rush in 2000, finishing second on the team in rushing with 426 yards.

In the 2001 season, playing behind a young offensive line, he led the Huskies in rushing with 607 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

Filled with pride, the football gods smiled down upon him at the Holiday Bowl (2001), when he closed out his illustrious career with a 34-yard touchdown run that regained the lead against Texas. Fittingly, that touchdown marked his last run as a Husky.

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

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