Coach's Corner

Corey Dillon is and always will be one of the greatest football players to ever play at the University of Washington. He is my friend and even though he only played for one year he will go down as the very best single season running back ever to wear the purple on the gold.

The recruiting of Corey took many years and included many stops before he finally showed up in the fall of 1996. His 301 carries and his 1724 yards gained that year may never be surpassed. His 24 touchdowns that season are almost double that of the next closest Husky running back for one year. Napoleon Kaufman had 14 in 1993 and Jacque Robinson had 14 in 1984 while the great Hugh McElhenney had 12 in 1950 with five coming against the Cougars.

Corey Dillon was great for Washington and has been great in the pros and now gets to play on the greatest stage in the game, the Super Bowl.

I first knew about Corey as early as 1990 because of his exploits in junior football. I got a call from the Franklin High School football coach, Joe Slye. He told me that Dillon was someone I should keep my eye on. He was a man child even then, and he continues to run with the same power and drive that he showed as a youngster in Seattle.

Corey is a "contact' runner who literally slides through the holes and can either run over, through, or around a would-be tackler.

I watched him play in person, on video and had endless phone conversations with this troubled young man. He was raised almost exclusively by his mother who worked long hours as a hospital orderly and cleaning person. She was the sole guiding force in his life and even though he had a track record for trouble, I found him to be straight forward and always honest with me. Once we met in person, we bonded immediately and that was the key reasons why we finally got him to play for the Huskies.

I was one of the few people he trusted in recruiting, and even though he had gotten into a fight with one of our players, I continued to befriend him.

He called me every time he came to town from JC, and we always talked about keeping "his dream" alive. He had watched all our Rose Bowls and was convinced he could be the best running back we would ever have.

He was right.

There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to get him. He wanted to play for the home town team and loved Husky Stadium. Because they had limited money, Corey couldn't afford to belong to a "gym" and work out. Consequently he worked out every night before he went to bed. Corey Dillon did 100 push ups and 100 sit ups and eventually worked his way up to 200 of each every night. He wouldn't go to bed until he finished his routine. He was committed to his body and he built up both of his power areas, his hips and upper torso, almost entirely without weights.

Because of his academic deficiencies at an early age he never developed the necessary building blocks to be successful in school. He struggled to say the least and was devastated when his senior year rolled around and he did not have either the required test score or core classes to be eligible for scholarship. His only recourse was junior college.

He and I met repeatedly to review essentially what he needed to do to become eligible and that amounted to getting an AA degree from a junior college. I was stunned when he picked Edmonds CC because they didn't even have football much less a study table to help him succeed. He was going to play baseball and I had no doubt he would be able to hit home runs.

It didn't work out and he missed playing football that first season but we continued to talk and he continued to come to our games.

We met again and I must add that I received tremendous assistance from Joe Slye, who was a great inter-city sports educator at Franklin, and continued to help him out as well. Because of that, Corey has always donated to Franklin High School even though he has never done so to Washington.

He decided to go to Garden City Kansas and I assured him that if he could complete his AA there would be a scholarship waiting for him at Washington. The dream was still alive.

Garden City was a long way from home but when I got his tapes there was no change in his playing ability. He dominated there just as he had at Franklin and even played both ways. He was an awesome safety but he was clearly a running back. As soon as football ended Corey began to struggle again and eventually got into a fight and got thrown out of school.

He called again and we talked again, keeping the dream alive. He was in trouble again but so were we. He knew we were ineligible for a bowl and I knew he was ineligible for us. It was a push.

He came home again before leaving for Dixie State College in Utah but not before visiting with me in person.

He was still committed to us and I was committed to him, even though I don't think Coach Lambright was.

At Snow he literally knocked their Snowshoes off. He was clearly the very best JC player in the nation. Colleges with easier admissions standards were now starting to line up and the recruiting began to stiffen up. We would be in a battle to add him and still hadn't even offered a scholarship until Lambo watched the tapes and finally gave me the go ahead to get him.

He was a difference maker but we already had Rashaan Shehee so we felt he would just be adding depth.

Depth in the form of the best player in the country.

I still believed in my relationship with him would win out but the ordeal began to get very interesting when I got a call from his "Uncles" and they told me to get over to Corey's house ASAP or "they" were sending him someplace else.

I left that hour and arrived at his house to a somewhat hostile environment where I spent the next 4-5 hours. They had lots of questions and I think I had lots of answers. I wouldn't leave until his mother came home from her night shift at the hospital. I knew she was the key. I felt like Corey and I were tight but it was it wasn't easy. I was being grilled but I realized it was only because they loved him.

Had I not been a product of the city of Seattle and had the clout I had in the CD, he was clearly being brokered somewhere else. I didn't care who the competition was because I knew about the "dream".

Mom arrived and we immediately hit it off. We knew a lot of the same people in the city and we were about the same vintage. She trusted me and I left without an absolute commitment but I knew we had him. The dream was a little vague but it was still there.

He signed with us, and then the hard part began. We had to get him academically eligible to be admitted to the UW and to complete his AA degree. He still had to enroll at Seattle Central and complete his JC degree. It helped that the President of Seattle Central was Dr, Charles Mitchell and he too had been a great Husky running back. I hooked him up with a job, a tutor, and with his family's support he worked his way through to complete his schooling. He did so with only a few days before camp opened.

No one had seen him work out. No one knew anything about him, his conditioning level, or his work ethic. I expected him to be in shape and trusted that he would rise to the next level but was totally shocked when he came in and dominated the conditioning test. He blew all the running backs away and out ran them all. He was tough. He was ready. He kept his mouth shut and worked hard every day. He scared a lot of the kids but we had guys like Bob Sapp "the Beast", John Fiala, Ink Aleaga, Jason Chorak, Tony Parrish and Benji Olson and the indomitable Olin Kruetz. They weren't afraid of anyone but they immediately recognized he was a force that added to our tough-guy team. So did Shehee, but the concept of Husky loyalty kept him as the starter and Corey started the season as a backup.

That lasted a few games before offensive coordinator Scott Linehan recognized it as well and proceeded to change the entire Husky offense and put it on the back of Dillon, as we marched to a championship. Had we started him from the get-go we may have gone undefeated that year.

It had taken me SIX years to recruit, court, and haul him in, and when he decided to turn pro immediately, I could only wish him the very best and thanked him for the ride. I know he had left on strained terms with some others in the program but as for me I realized he would have struggled tremendously just to have stayed eligible for us. He made the right decision in my eyes, even though he didn't go until the second round.

Al Roberts, our running backs coach, had jumped back to the NFL and convinced the Bengals to take him. I know I told at least six scouts and GM's they would be crazy to not take him with their first pick. He had never given us a bit of trouble but his past had come back to haunt him again.

He had a new dream by then, and I had no doubt that he would someday be where he is right now -- playing for all the marbles in the biggest game in football.

On Superbowl Sunday, I'll be rooting for the Patriots and for the greatest recruiting job I ever pulled for the Huskies. Top Stories