Husky names that make you smile - II

Last time I shared some of my favorite names from Husky football gridiron history that played on the offensive side of the ball. Now it's time to take a look at the guys that put licks and make the picks on ball carriers and quarterbacks alike. Here is my favorite all-time defensive team.

I only include the players that I had the pleasure of seeing in person, so that forced me to leave some incredible players off of the list. Legends like Rick Redman, and perhaps the greatest Husky of all-time, George Wilson.

With that big fat disclaimer in place, I'll now share with you my favorite Huskies, by position, and a brief reason why they have earned that place in my heart.

DT Ron Holmes (1982-84) - This guy panned out pretty well for a tight end with skinny legs out of Lacey, Washington. When he arrived on campus, he was too small to catch anyone's eye, but by the time he left for the NFL Holmes had been a starter for three seasons at defensive tackle, being named unanimous all-American in 1984. He netted 117 tackles from the interior line, 12 sacks, and won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-10's best linemen. Holmes gave Husky fans a scare when he limped off of the field after the first series in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma, but returned with a vengeance. He was named the lineman of the game, tipping a Danny Bradley pass that Joe Kelly intercepted to seal the game. Holmes was small, but got the most out of his motor. He was a 1st round pick by Tampa Bay and played eight seasons in the NFL.

DT Steve Emtman (1989-91) - To put it simply, he was perhaps the finest defensive player to ever play football at Washington. He made three starts at defensive end in 1989 and Husky fans took notice right away that he was something special. By 1990 he was dominating anyone that lined up in front of him, and in 1991 he took home the Lombardi and Outland trophies. He was unblockable, and his intensity was such that he would scream at walk-ons that loafed in practice. He once did a back flip during mat drills, something that 300-pound linemen aren't supposed to be able to do. Watching him destroy a triple-team against Michigan to knock the ball from Elvis Grbac's grasp was a thing of beauty. Watching him tackle Arizona's George Malauulu for losses on the first two plays of the game, and then staring him down and intimidating him into taking a time out before third down occurred was classic. It is not fair to compare any linemen that Washington has in the program to him. He is the best that ever played the position for the Huskies and there may never be another like him.

Honorable Mention: Fletcher Jenkins (1979-81) - Jenkins followed Doug Martin as the starting tackle on the Husky defense. He was an intimidating player who had a scowl to die for. When I was in the UW Marching Band in 1981, wearing a drum awaiting to enter the field for a halftime show, Jenkins was trapped between the band and a bench and couldn't get to the tunnel. He walked up to me, grabbed me by the shoulders and lifted me and my drum up, carefully placed us to the side, and then he ran through the opening after winking at me. I'll never forget him. Until he winked, I thought he was going to eat me for lunch. Fletch notched 228 tackles from his interior line position in his three seasons.

DE Travis Richardson (1987-90) - Richardson just missed the national championship season, but did a wonderful job at showing Andy Mason and Donald Jones the ropes. Travis was Olympia's favorite son, and did them proud by playing an attacking brand of defense that revolutionized the Husky defense. Until Richardson, Washington had played strictly a 3-4 base with a true middle guard and two tackles since Don James arrived. With Travis on the edge, they went to a scheme that featured a speed rusher instead of three large bodies inside. As a freshman, he lined up next to sophomore sensation Dennis Brown and ushered in the wave of havoc-creating perimeter players for Jim Lambright. TR was a four-year starter and had three sacks against Purdue in 1990, and finished his career with a school-record 248.5 in tackles for loss yardage. He was one of my favorites to watch on defense, even though he didn't get the publicity that Mason and Jones did.

OLB Jaime Fields (1989-92) - Jaime (pronounced "High-me") was the fastest linebacker in school history. Recruited as a wide receiver out of California, Fields was part of the wave of moving the fastest players to defense. By the time he took over the starting outside linebacker position from Brett Collins, Fields stood 5-10, weighed 230 pounds, ran a 4.31 40, and bench pressed 400 pounds. He was a physical freak of nature and had a knack for making big hits. Fields put a hit so hard on a Michigan running back that was unfortunate enough to catch a screen pass in front of him that he lost the ball, his mouth guard, his breath, and his footing all in the blink of an eye. Fields finished his Husky career with 38.5 tackles for loss, and was remembered fondly for his "Compton Quake" dance he performed after sacking the quarterback. He sacked WSU's Drew Bledsoe for a safety in Husky Stadium. Bledsoe was 6-5 230 pounds and Fields picked him up and threw him down like a rag doll. He played for the Kansas City Chiefs as a safety for three seasons. He was tragically killed in a hit-and-run car accident.

ILB Michael Jackson (1975-78) - Jackson was considered the first "big time" in-state recruit that Don James had to secure. Jackson was heavily recruited out of Pasco High School but James, a first year coach, was able to convince him to stick around and not leave for warmer climates. Jackson didn't regret it, and was able to help guide the Huskies to their first Rose Bowl in 14 seasons in 1977. He made the crucial interception at the three-yard line that thwarted Michigan's last gasp comeback effort. Jackson racked up 569 tackles, including 210 in 1977, TWENTY-NINE against WSU (20 solo) as well as against Oregon State in that same season. He holds nearly every tackling record in school history.

ILB Joe Kelly (1982-85) - Kelly won his first start subbing for an injured Joe Krakowski. He would make a huge impression on defensive coordinator Jim Lambright. Kelly was all over the field and showed good ball skills when he had the opportunity to make interceptions. Joe had 365 career tackles, 151 in 1984, the same year he picked off five passes, one for a touchdown against Stanford. He made the interception in 1984 off of WSU's Mark Rypien that clinched the Apple Cup and sent the Huskies to the Orange Bowl, where he would make another pick. Kelly wound up being a first-round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, and had a 10-year NFL career.

SS Chris O'Conner (1979-82 ) - From Bellevue, Washington, O'Conner was from the old school. He didn't have the best speed but he was a heady player who was never out of position. The coaches trusted O'Conner implicitly and he rewarded them with inspired play and timely big hits. In the 1981 season when Washington returned to the Rose Bowl, O'Conner played lights out, starting every game. He did again the following season. O'Conner personifies, to me, what it means to be a Husky. He was tough, he worked hard, and he was an impressive person. It was an honor to watch him play.

FS Laywer Milloy (1993-95) - Milloy was the prized running back recruit in the state out of Tacoma when he committed to Washington. An injury to a finger didn't allow Milloy to make his debut as a true freshman cornerback, but a season in the weight room made him into a hard-hitting free safety. He took the job away from Lamar Lyons in 1993 and never looked back, starting every game of his sophomore and junior seasons before leaving for the NFL early. Milloy saved the Huskies' bacon more times than anyone can count, running down plays from impossible angles to save touchdowns or make big stops. His hit in the Miami game in 1994 on the Hurricane's tailback on second and short set the tone, and let Miami know that they were in for a tough afternoon. Richard Thomas' 75-yard screen pass touchdown may have nailed it down, but Milloy's stuff job inside the Husky 10-yard line is what set the wheels in motion for one of the best road victories in school history.

CB Vestee Jackson (1983-85) - One of the best Husky recruits out of the Fresno area, Jackson was the best corner on one of the best defenses in Husky history. When Jim Lambright needed to shut down a tough receiver, Vestee was his guy. Jackson took over games by shutting down his side of the field and allowing Ron Holmes, Fred Small, and Reggie Rogers get their shots on opposing quarterbacks. Jackson started 36 games in a row for the Dawgs and had an eight-year NFL career.

CB Ray Horton (1979-82) Along with Milloy, Horton was one of the best high school players to come from the Tacoma area. He was named an all-American in 1981 when he broke up 14 passes. He was also one of the most dangerous punt return men in the country. When it came to one-on-one coverage, no one was better than Ray. NO ONE. The school has not had a cornerback like him since, and he was appropriately named to the school's all-Centennial team. He had 10 career interceptions, and returned a punt 73-yards for a touchdown against USC in 1980, the year that he averaged over 13 yards per return. Horton had a 10-year NFL career following his Husky days. Watching him cover receivers and make break-ups was poetry in motion.

KOR Anthony Allen (1979-82) - Allen was an option quarterback at Garfield but made a huge splash at the local school in many ways. Allen was a big play wide receiver and a breath-taking kickoff return man. He also was the first Husky I can remember that wore the popular "doo-rag" on his head that became a staple of the 1980s. Allen also played with a toothpick in his mouth, strangely enough. His ability to break open a big return when the Huskies needed it made him a joy to watch. Allen had a lot of personality, and would often joke with the marching band. He was a very good dancer and a pretty fair percussionist, if I do say so myself. Allen was a two-year starter as a receiver and made a diving reception of a Tim Cowan pass in the waning moments of the 1982 Aloha Bowl that vaulted the Huskies over the Boomer Esiason-led Maryland Terps. Allen returned a kickoff 99 yards for a TD against Pittsburgh as a freshman and returned one 84 yards against Oregon State as a sophomore. For his career Anthony returned 54 kickoffs and averaged 23.8 yards per return.

P Skip Boyd (1972-74) - Boyd was an all-American in 1974 when he averaged 42.2 yards per punt in windy Husky Stadium. He actually averaged 43 yards the season before, and that is a school record. The kid with the baby face was the master of uncorking the long bomb, as two of his punts went over 70 yards in 1974. He tied Jeff Partridge as the all-time punting average of 41.2 yards per boot.
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