Dave Hoffmann: Sketches of Husky Toughness

It was during a 1987 recruiting visit that former UW defensive coordinator Jim Lambright privately said words to Dave Hoffmann that have remained housed within Hoffmann's memory ever since. Lambright had seen plenty of film of the promising linebacker from Pioneer high school in San Jose, California. He loved Hoffmann's style of play and felt it was a perfect blend of recklessness and intelligence for the Husky defense.

After interacting with Hoffmann's high school coach and other people nearby, Lambright managed to get Hoffmann alone. Lambright sported burly forearms, red hair and intense, steel blue eyes. Hoffmann was 6'2" tall and 220lbs of muscle, with an intensity that could be every bit Lambright's equal. In a room at Pioneer high school, the two were looking squarely at each other.

Hoffmann, now a Secret Service Agent living in Maryland, recently recalled that interaction.

"Lambo came to my high school and when we were alone and he said, "I like you most of all because you're nasty." I knew I wanted to play for a guy who appreciated that. I loved that! It was like a touching of the souls. That was the kind of guy that you had to love playing for, someone who appreciates that style of play and can speak that language honestly."

As a Washington Husky, Dave Hoffmann would go on to become an All-American, play in three Rose Bowls, and be named the 1992 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Subsequently, he was drafted into the NFL and played with the Chicago Bears and later the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Recently, Hoffmann received a copy of the February 2005 issue of Sports Washington magazine. In it, he read the Dawgman.com "Post of the Month" written by someone named CJM. Among other things, the writer decried the need for more testosterone with the current Huskies, and stated that a team with more testosterone would beat USC. Hoffmann, also known to his teammates by the nicknames "Hammer" and "Hitman", begged to differ:

"I got fired up reading the commentary page of Sports Washington," he said. "That guy said that there hasn't been a group of guys as tough as the 1959-62 Huskies. While I fully appreciate those stallions and those in the 1970s and 1980s, I know a crew who could walk down any alley or go into any country and always come out on top! Even today I would go anywhere our crew! We never had to worry about who had our back... I always knew my back was covered by some of the baddest mother ******* in the world. We counted on each other and loved each other…

"The guys I played with were great players and great people. The last few minutes we've been talking about guys like Donald Jones, Mark Brunnell, Steve Emtman, Lincoln Kennedy, Ed Cunningham, Chico Fraley, Dana Hall, Walter Bailey, Jaime Fields, James Clifford, and so many others, I could go right down the roster. I hear those names and my heart is just filled with… I mean, I love those guys. They were tough competitors yet very humble people. When we stepped over that line and onto the field, those feelings of ferocity and nastiness could be unleashed… The writer is trying to talk about testosterone when he means "nastiness". Nastiness is something God gives you, not something you can truly create. Nastiness needs to be recruited… The writer also says that USC only has talent. You don't win national championships with just talent. USC plays, practices and trains with super high intensity. That writer needs a little help."

Hoffmann continued:

"When any Husky Alumni turn on the TV, they expect to see a physical style of play. They don't hope to see it they expect to see it. Coach James had a philosophy that was absolutely beautiful. He called it the Holy Sh** Philosophy. The thinking was, after the play, when someone has come across the middle on our defense, he should pay a price, and then head back to the huddle going: Holy sh**! Let's not do that again because that hurt!"

And out of curiosity, how much trash talking went on when the Dawgs' defense was on the field?

"There would be a lot of talk. But speaking for myself, I wasn't trying to play mind games. A lot of standard trash talk comes from stuff in the newspapers that players are trying to fling at each other. I wasn't into that, the personal insults. I might yell at the quarterback, RUN THE BALL! YOU CAN'T RUN THE BALL! Our talk was more geared toward what was happening on the field. Between snaps we'd be shouting over at the offense: WE'RE COMING FOR MORE!!! If the other team is setting crossing routes, it's a slap in our face, because they're doing that because think they can. If they tried to run across the tackles that would make us mad too."

Hoffmann laughed then added: "Of course, running across the tackles is a part of any game plan. But our defense took it personally."

Despite Washington's recent small and poorly rated recruiting class, there are some glimmers of hope for the future. The discussion went to J.R. Hasty of Bellevue, and of his reputation as a competitor possessing a motor that doesn't stop.

"That's the kind of guys we need in the program," Hoffmann said. "Hopefully this can be the start of building it up again. I remember when we were on the scout team during that very unimpressive 6-5 season in 1988. After that season, Coach James said: The changes start now. But us young guys were having a ball down on the scout team. We knew there was something there. The beautiful thing was that everyone was willing to work. That's hopefully what Tyrone Willingham is cultivating now (with the underclassmen). "

In conclusion, Hoffmann recalled another memory that has remained for the past dozen years. He described how a receiver was once coming across the middle and Hoffmann unloaded upon him with ferocious carnage. Hoffmann got up and was congratulated by exuberant teammates. As he headed back to the huddle, he cast a glance through his facemask to the sideline.

"Lambo was looking right me and our eyes locked," said Hoffmann. "In his eyes was a recognition and appreciation for what had just occurred. It was a very powerful moment, and a powerful bond between us. It's hard to explain…

"It was just an unspeakable thing of beauty."
Derek Johnson is a freelance writer and can be reached at uwsundodger@msn.com

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