Dawgman.com Football 105: The Top-10

It's time to unveil the top-10 of the Dawgman.com 105, a comprehensive list of who we have picked as the greatest Washington football players and coaches of all time. It spans all decades and styles of football; from the great quarterbacks to the amazing running backs to the all time best defensive players and coaches ever to don the purple and gold.

This list was initially compiled by Dawgman.com Editor-In-Chief Chris Fetters and Andy Poehlman, a longtime contributor to Dawgman.com and Sports Washington magazine. Dave Samek, the Dawgman, broke all ties and put the complete list together. Then it was sent to Dave Torrell, the Curator of the Husky Hall of Fame, for some final tweaking. And what you see today is the final list. Enjoy!
Dawgman.com 105: 105-91
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10. Marques Tuiasosopo - If we could see into the soul of every football player every alive, it would surprise no observer of the 1999-2000 UW Huskies if the person who played football with the purest and most joyful spirit in the history of the sport were Marques Tuiasosopo. Part of one of Seattle's royal football families, Marques (son of former Seattle Seahawk and UCLA Bruin, Manu Tuiasosopo) seemed destined for greatness from the moment he turned out for football at Woodinville High School. He fulfilled that promise almost instantly and was All-league on both offense and defense every year he played at Woodinville (he was also all-league at shortstop in baseball). Because of his physical ability and his lack of passing production in Woodinville's offense, almost every school that recruited him did so at Safety. However, in a master stroke, Jim Lambright and Dick Baird were the only college coaches willing to try Marques at quarterback and the tactic paid off when Tui (the top in-state recruit in 1997) gave Washington his commitment over his father's alma mater. Once at UW, Marques had so many moments of pure greatness as a Husky it's hard to recount them all. His 300 passing yard/200 rushing yard performance against Stanford in his junior year. His heroic insertion into a lost cause game against Nebraska as a true freshman. His touchdown run against Miami in 2000. And of course, the three-play, 80-yard drive against Stanford after Curtis Williams' paralyzing injury. By the time Marques was a senior at Washington, he wasn't just a football player in Seattle any more, he was an icon. After the season finished, he was more than just an All-American or the 8th leading vote-getter in the Heisman race that year. He was more than just the 2001 Rose Bowl MVP or the Seattle Times Sports Star of the Year. He was the heart and soul of Washington football. He was a perfect balance between gritty determination and joyousness. He was always one step ahead of his opponents, one step away from magic and one step further into Husky lore.

9. George Wilson - When your college career ended in 1925 and your record for 38 total touchdowns in a career still stands to today, you've had a Hall of Fame career. And that's the least that can be said about George 'Wildcat' Wilson, Washington's first collegiate football All-American. In fact the Everett native was pretty much all everything back then; All-Conference, All-Coast, and a consensus All-American. Doing it all for the Huskies as a true 60-minute player, Wilson helped UW to its first two Rose Bowls, tying the first one in 1924 with Navy and then losing a heartbreaker 20-19 to Alabama and its own George Wilson - Johnny Mack Brown. In fact, many Alabama football historians call that game 'The Football Game that Changed The South', because of the impact it had in bringing up morale for southerners who were dealing with massive poverty and isolation in the wake of their Civil War defeat decades earlier. Alabama was the first southern team honored with the privilege of playing in the Rose Bowl, so they saw it as a chance to redeem not only southern football, but the South in general. To note Wilson's importance in this game, when he was out with injury Alabama scored all 20 of their points; when he was in the Huskies scored their 19 - and it took a game-saving tackle by Mack Brown to seal Alabama's victory. After the game famed writer Damon Runyan called Wilson, "one of the finest players of this or any other era." Wilson was named by the famed sportswriter Grantland Rice to the 1925 All-American backfield along with Illinois' Red Grange and Stanford's Ernie Nevers. When it came time to move on after Washington, Wilson was lured into joining the American Football League - or the 'Grange League' as it came to be known. It starred the Hall of Fame running back Grange, with Wilson the Owner and President of the AFL's traveling west coast team - the Los Angeles, or Pacific Coast, Wildcats. During the one AFL season, Wilson's Wildcats finished fourth in the nine-team league, and many have suggested Wilson would have been a bigger star in pro football if not for Grange, who overshadowed Wilson's own talents on the field. Wilson was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951, the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1991, and named part of the 1980 Husky Hall of Fame class. His number 33 is one of only three numbers that has been retired at Washington.

8. Sonny Sixkiller - When it comes to figuring out who is arguably the most popular Husky football player in the history of the program, it's hard not to gravitate toward Sonny Sixkiller. Not too many have had songs named for them - let alone have had a band named after them - or have found themselves on the cover of Sports Illustrated AND Boys Life either. As it turned out, Sixkiller was one of those rare players that was truly larger than life, although you'd never know it by looking at his 5-foot-11 frame. Sixkiller, from the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma by way of Ashland, Ore., had an incredible aura about him wherever he went, and under Jim Owens he quickly became a fan favorite. Sixkiller got his chance to start for the Huskies in 1970 and never looked back. He became one of only eight Huskies to be named a two-time captain of the team, and still holds the UW all time record for passing yards per completion in a season. Just like Jake Locker four decades later, Sonny took a 1-9 team in 1969 to 6-4, leading the country in passing that year. It was a revelation to those that had only seen Owens' teams run, run and run some more. With the help of receivers like Tom Scott and Jim Krieg, by the time Sixkiller was done at Montlake he rewrote the UW passing record book. In 1971, Sixkiller, Scott and Krieg helped the Huskies win a 38-35 thriller at Husky Stadium over Purdue, who was also loaded offensively with Gary Danielson, receiver Darryl Stingley (the same player that was paralyzed by Jack Tatum in the NFL) and running back Otis Armstrong - recently named to the College Football Hall of Fame. If you want to know what Sixkiller is doing today, it's not hard to find him around campus. After a short-lived attempt at pro ball, Sixkiller came back to Seattle and eventually moved into broadcasting with Fox Sports Northwest. Once that career ran its course Sixkiller remained part of the Husky community, landing a job as a Senior Associate General Manager of Washington's ISP Network, Named part of the 1985 Husky Hall of Fame class.

7. Jim Lambright - When Don James took over the Husky football program from Jim Owens in 1974, there was only one link left between the Washington of the past and the Washington of the future: Jim Lambright. It was lucky for Washington that he was. Lambright shares so much DNA with the Washington program, it is practically impossible to understand one without the other. In a singular Husky career, spanning 34 years (he walked the Husky sideline during a mind blowing 386 games) and myriad roles, the man with the steely blue eyes is uniquely positioned as the force that revolutionized Husky defense as a coordinator, recruited some of its greatest players as a coach and played for some of its greatest teams as a player. He came to Washington out of Everett High as an undersized, but firey, defensive linemen and worked his way up through the ranks to coordinator and eventually, head coach. Though he won the Guy Flaherty Most Inspirational award as a senior, it seems a little inadequate that it's his only official decoration at Washington. You have to imagine, if there were a lifetime achievement Guy Flaherty award, the coach known affectionately as "Lambo" certainly would be the recipient. He has been many things throughout his life, but in retrospect, James "Jim" Lambright has always been the best the Husky football team had to offer. He was determined, loyal, tough and defensively minded. He was there for the highest of highs (January 1st 1992) and the lowest of lows (the race issues of the late 1960s, the sanctions and James resignation of the early 1990s) and refused to take another job outside the area after being replaced as head coach by Rick Neuheisel. After his dismissal (handled in typically callous fashion by former Athletic Director Barbara Hedges) he faded into the background in the northwest, fought a successful battle with bladder cancer and took a job doing team-building and oversight with Turner Construction. Fortunately for Husky fans, Lambo has reemerged in recent years as a beloved elder-statesman, an interested observer and an informed commentator. His contribution to UW football is unrivaled, his place in its history unquestioned and his legacy is evident. Jim Lambright is a plain spoken, kind-hearted, tough kid from Everett who bestowed upon the University of Washington the gift of decades of great defense. Named part of the 2006 Husky Hall of Fame class.

6. Gil Dobie The Seattle Times once wrote that the only loss Gil Dobie ever experienced at Washington was his legacy. But his legacy as the coach who guided the Huskies from prior mediocrity to a staggering 58-0-3 record in his 9 years at Washington wasn't lost really so much as it was forgotten. The truth is, the impact of Dobie's time at Washington is intact, even if it is fuzzy in local memories. Much like Michigan's Fielding Yost, or Alabama's Wallace Wade, Dobie called for a standard of excellence at Washington that would resonate through the years. And that call usually came in the form of an insult. "Gloomy Gil", an orphan and former indentured servant adopted late in childhood by an affluent family, was known primarily for berating players, drilling them until they dropped and reminding them in no uncertain terms they had no shot against the behemoths they were up against. The likes Lincoln High or Whitman or Whitworth (who Washington famously trounced 100-0) were sure to trounce them and he made sure every player knew it. Although his method was simple--smoke a cigar and disdain everything--it produced brilliant results. In his 9 years at Washington, Dobie set an unbeatable win percentage (95%) and launched the tough mindedness that has characterized the football team since (In 69% of Washington's games the opponents failed to score). Once called "The Apostle of Grief" for his constant haranguing against overconfidence, Dobie eventually inspired and delivered fierce loyalty from and to his players and, in the end, was fired for standing up against a player's explosion. Though Dobie went on to success elsewhere (primarily Cornell), it was by and large his time at Washington that made him an obvious choice for the inaugural College Football Hall of Fame Class of 1953. He was as gray as the Seattle weather. He would do anything to win, as exemplified by his 'Bunk Play' where he made their leather helmets look like a football in order to fool defenses. He was steely and demanding. But that gray, steely disposition and the excellent football it wrought, served as the foundation on which all else has been built. Part of the initial Husky Hall of Fame class in 1979.

5. Warren Moon - Just for a second, try to imagine the most perfect ball ever thrown by a Husky quarterback. Imagine a spiraling ball sailing through the air, the tip perfectly still while the white stripes blink on and off in a blur of perfect rotation. Imagine that ball whizzing back down past thousands of blurry faces and landing in the outstretched hands of a receiver. Chances are, if you trace the line of the ball to it's origin, that ball will have been thrown by Warren Moon. Moon, was a special player for many reasons at Washington. He was special because he brought the Huskies from mediocrity to prominence and he was special because he was built like an olympic sprinter, but threw the ball like a javelin. He was also special because he started a run of NFL quality QBs at Washington that is unlikely to be equalled at any school. And while it's hard to accurately describe the elegance of his passing, it's equally hard to understand the inelegance of his career. Prior to Moon's landing at Washington, he was asked by every prominent school to switch positions from the 'heady' QB to more 'physical' positions like DB or WR. In those days Black QBs were dismissed out of hand, and it took the kind of emotional detachment Husky coach Don James displayed to see the merits of the West Los Angeles College signal caller. In fact, the most confusing part about scouts' rejection of Moon as a quarterback--both in college and the pros--is that his strength as a player was passing. Moon threw a beautiful, soaring, spiraling ball. He had a big, lively arm and the ball leapt out of his hand. He was accurate, he was nimble and he was determined. And as he showed over and over again at the University of Washington, he was a winner. Moon's name still dots the Husky record books, coming in 15th all time in passing yards (he left 3rd), but it was moments like his masterful play in the 1977 Apple Cup that Husky fans love to remember. After leading Washington to their first signature win under James (A Rose Bowl victory over Michigan in which Moon was named the MVP), Moon found himself undrafted in 12 rounds by the NFL. Moon had to venture to Edmonton and play for the Eskimos and win 5 consecutive Grey Cups (which he did in 6 total years) before the NFL would consider him worthy. Once in the NFL, Moon showed a level of play rare for the position, passing for 49,325 yards and 291 TDs. After 17 years in the NFL on top of his 6 in the CFL, Moon was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and stands as an icon of perseverance and fortitude. However, to Husky fans he simply stands as the QB who started it all for Don James and kicked off the greatest 20 year run in Husky History. Named part of the 1984 Husky Hall of Fame class.

4. Rick Redman - An Iron Man. Rick Redman played--no, starred--both ways for Washington. Wait, not both ways--all ways. Rick Redman, the Iron Man, the Blanchet product, the two-time consensus All-American at both G and LB defined the type of toughness typical of the Jim Owens Husky football teams and he did all that--All-Conference, All-America, Academic All-America, Husky Hall-of-Fame, College Football Hall-of-Fame, etc--while he was the Huskies punter as well. In fact, Redman is still 8th in all time yardage for Husky punters. Of course, Redman's fame is not solely (or hardly at all) from his punting exploits (even though they were laudable). His legacy is from his brute force as a player on both sides of the ball. Number 66 was feared, not because of his 5-11, 215 pound frame--though it was sturdy, he was feared because he embodied the never-say-die toughness that Owens demanded and prized in his players. In Redman's junior year, the team started the season with three straight losses and still clawed their way to a Rose Bowl. Redman followed his career at Washington with a respectable stint in the AFL with the San Diego Chargers and following that, returned to Seattle to his Iron Man roots, this time working for his step-father John Sellen's construction company. Redman rose to become chairman of Sellen (one of Western Washington's top construction firms) and throughout his tenure was active in the Husky Football community. Today he is known as second only to Jim Lambright in breadth of Husky service, he was a Guard, a Linebacker, a Punter and now a prominent booster. An Iron Man on the field and off, Redman is one of the most decorated and important Huskies to ever step on the field at Husky Stadium. Named part of the 1982 Husky Hall of Fame class.

3. Hugh McElhenny - "The King" famously said that when he went into the NFL in 1952, he took a pay cut. While the slush fund scandal at the crux of that comment took its toll at Washington, it would be hard to say the Huskies didn't get their money's worth. Hugh McElhenny is simply the best offensive player Washington ever had. His records have been written in the Washington books for so long they seem a part of the paper the books are printed on. And even though McElhenny rewrote Husky history, it isn't his 296 yard Apple Cup (the top mark for all Husky runners) or his 2,499 career rushing yards (which was the UW standard for 28 years) that puts him this high on the list. He's at the top because he brought Washington to the forefront of college football. His 96 yard kick return against then powerhouse Minnesota in 1949 announced Washington's legitimacy. A year later, his 91 yard run against Kansas State the day the first upper deck was added to Husky Stadium was a fitting christening of the event. His 100 yard punt return against USC in 1951 is still talked about to this day. The length of the runs wasn't as important, however, as their style. He was one of the few runners, in that strata with Gayle Sayers and Barry Sanders, who made a football field like a dance floor and Hurryin' Hugh knew all the steps. He could jitterbug, foxtrot or waltz when the occasion called for it and all n a 6-1, 210 body that made him more fit to be a linemen in those days. When he finished at Washington, he was selected 9th overall by San Francisco in the 1952 draft and went on to have one of the greatest careers in the history of the NFL. In fact, even though McElhenny's home is replete with tributes from his supporters to his abilities, his legacy and his career, his proudest possession is a plaque he received from fans of an opposing team. It is inscribed with a quote that says everything important about the College and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer, "If everyone played the game like Hugh McElhenny, wouldn't it be beautiful." Part of the initial Husky Hall of Fame class in 1979.

2. Steve Emtman - As they say: the man, the myth, the legend. The man? Steve Emtman--a hay-bailing hoss from the fields of Cheney, Washington--was a tireless worker, a perfectionist, a weight room enthusiast. He was someone who would not let others settle for less because he saw that as allowing himself to be on a team that settled for less. Which he wouldn't. The myth? Emtman was not lightly recruited or overlooked coming out of Cheney. In fact, he was so sought after that college coaches braved his 8mm game film (literally, film) and trips to the middle of no-ahem, Cheney, to recruit him. The battle between Washington and WSU was serious and he had other suitors, but he knew early that he was going to be a Dawg. The legend? In the hospital on IV fluids the night before the 1992 Rose Bowl (he was co-MVP), Emtman absolutely dominated the game. In his wake leading to that game was nothing but opposing offensive lines torn asunder. Oregon State? Devastated. Arizona? Destroyed. He was Attilla in Purple and Gold. There is really nothing superlative you can say about Emtman's time at Washington that wouldn't be accurate on some level. Many have made the case he was the greatest college football player ever. Even though his numbers from that year aren't particularly eye-popping, it would be hard to argue that he didn't, at the very least, have one of the top 10 seasons ever by a college football player in 1991. Recently, even a Coug-friendly blogger said Emtman's fourth place finish in the Heisman Trophy vote that year was the biggest crime in Heisman history. The unfortunate reality for every player to don a Husky uniform from now until the end of college football is that they will be measured against Steve Emtman. It's an impossible mark to hit because in his case, the man, the myth and the legend are all the same thing. Nothing he put on the field was ever short of legendary. After his redshirt junior year he left to be the number one pick in the NFL draft and started career in grand style until 12 surgeries did what no opposing offensive linemen could ever do while at Washington, stop him. Named part of the 1999 Husky Hall of Fame class.

1. Don James - Growing up in the cradle of football civilization, Massilon, Ohio, Don James learned early that football wasn't about flash and panache, it was about a commitment to hard work, preparation and determination. He was from the old school of the old school. His approach wasn't player friendly, it wasn't player unfriendly it was player-neutral. He rarely even dealt with the players. Don James coached coaches and himself and was willing to self-examine as thoroughly as he was willing to examine anyone else around him. After a prosaic start to his career at Washington in his first two years, and a 1-3 start in his third, James famously elected to permanently move into his office until the team was thoroughly turned around. That coach-in resulted in a 54-0 destruction of Oregon from with the DJ regime never looked back. In 18 years at Washington, the former Massilon Tiger took the Huskies to 6 Rose Bowls (1978, 1981, 1982, 1991, 1992, 1993) and an Orange Bowl (for those of you scoring at home, that's an average of a Rose Bowl every 3 years and a J1 bowl every 2.6 years) as well as a shared National Championship (twice, if you ask me!). He was known for discipline (he refused to take a raise after a mediocre season in 1988), but was also open to innovations (like Lambright's attacking defense) when they were merited. James' accomplishments at Washington were many, but in the end, James just fit at Washington. He fit because in a town of show-me Scandinavians, he wasn't a talker. He wasn't a mover or a shaker, he was a doer. He was humble, straight-forward and honest. His winning percentage of 73 percent remains the mark by which all other modern Husky coaches will be measured against, but the culture and prestige he brought to Washington will always be his gift to help his successors in that measurement. Though James' tenure ended ignominiously with sanctions and a nasty fight with then UW president William Gerberding, he will be remembered in perpetuity as simply, The Dawgfather: the greatest coach in Husky history. And additionally, according to this list, the greatest Husky in Husky history. Named part of the 1994 Husky Hall of Fame class.

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