This week we had a fun conversation with former Husky running back Terry Hollimon, who gave his list for the top 5 Washington running backs since 1990. Given that Hollimon played from 1993-1997, he had an opportunity to see several of these players first hand. He's got a couple of interesting stories to boot.
"When I'm judging these guys, I keep in mind that stats don't always tell the whole story about what's going on," Hollimon said. "So I'm using my knowledge of the whole story of what they did at the U-Dub and their skill set."
So with apologies to George WIlson, Hugh McElhenny, George Fleming, Joe Steele, Jacque Robinson and any others that came before 1990, here are Terry's Top 5 Husky tailbacks....
5. Rashaan Shehee
Rashaan and I were in the same class in 1993. He was a rare combination of size, speed and strength. He was playing at about 215 pounds. He had long arms with big hands and his knuckles would drag on the ground. He was one of the best receivers on our team as well. He was also one of the best throwers on the team. He threw a touchdown pass in a game to Fred Coleman.
During Rashaan's first two years we had a Heisman candidate as the starting tailback. Then his third year we had Leon Neal as the starting tailback, a guy who had paid his dues but then broke his foot in mid season. Rashaan had a great half season. The following year in 1996 we had Corey Dillon. Then Rashaan was the guy in 1997. So basically, Rashaan ended up with one and half seasons as the featured tailback.
If he had been the guy for three full years, he might be regarded differently this day by fans.
4. Chris Polk
Here's the thing with Chris Polk: Just as much as Jake Locker is credited with saving the Husky Football program, I think Chris Polk's contributions to those teams helped to save Husky football.
He wasn't a flashy runner. He didn't have anything about him that jumped out that would make you turn on the TV and say "I've got to watch this guy because he's amazingly fast or has great footwork that will make everybody miss."
But what he was was an every down player. He was what they call a blue collar guy. He'd put his hard hat on and go to work. He probably had more determination than any of the backs we're going to name here. So that kind of outweighed some of the other things that I think he might have been lacking that would have put him in the 1-2 spot on our list.
Every now and again you get these guys that have something you can't put your finger on. They're just good. He was a good, solid football player. Whatever it was about him, he was very difficult to tackle. He had a determination that he didn't want to go on the ground. That's one of the qualities that make for a great running back.
When it comes to big time college football and the politics that come along with it, the U-Dub is unfortunately not immune to that. They were at a really down place, and they needed someone to be the face of the team and the savior of the team, and Jake filled that role for them. Even though I always knew in my heart that if they were going to win, it was going to be on Polk's shoulders.
3. Greg Lewis
Greg was a tough, big, strong son of a gun. He was another guy that was a bruiser. He was delivering the blood every time he got the ball. He was looking to punish somebody. And he had enough speed to get around the corner and get up field and break away.
When you meet Greg, he's just a big, giant imposing figure. He's like a man child. Big giant hands and a big giant body. And he produced consistently. Unfortunately he wasn't there for the national championship season, but he put them in position to get there. If he had redshirted back in 1987, he would have been starter on the 1991 National Championship team.
2. Corey Dillon
Corey was one and done in 1996. When he first set foot on campus, he didn't start right away. He didn't get much playing time. He got mad about it. I saw him throw chairs and get mad. It was Rashaan's show to lose.
But Rashaan ended up hurting his ankle and they threw Corey in the mix. And he made the most of it.
Corey ran for 222 yards and scored 5 touchdowns in the first quarter of the San Jose State game. Corey was getting nicked up and banged up. By that point, Corey was "the guy". He could do pretty much whatever he wanted.
At one point he looked at me and said, "Terry, go in." I was being rebellious. I told him I wasn't going in until they put me in. Corey said, "I'm not going back in. You're going in."
They had put in a fullback named Mike Reed to play tailback. He got hurt on the first or second play. The coaches were shouting for Corey because they needed a tailback. But Corey had already taken his shoulder pads off. He was done. He shook his head as if to say "Terry, I'm not going in."
So I ran in there. I put myself in the game. They called a 33 zone. I got the ball and turned the corner. I dropped my shoulder and took on one guy head-on, and ran through his tackle. Then I thought WAIT A MINUTE! THERE'S NO ONE ELSE HERE. I ran about 40 yards for a touchdown. I ran and the only thing in my mind was "I've waited four years for this moment, DO NOT TRIP." And I didn't. I ran for 148 yards that day, which was my claim to fame at U-Dub.
1. Napoleon Kaufman
I say this to everyone who asks me, and even if you don't ask me. Napoleon Kaufman is the best running back I ever met in person. The guy had an unbelievable and ridiculous work ethic. People would say things about him, like he's too small or this and that. But he lived in the weight room and lived on the track. He was all about football.
The guy was ridiculously strong, ridiculously fast and ridiculously quick. He had moves that nobody else had. He was Reggie Bush before Reggie Bush. Except he was stronger than Reggie Bush. For a guy that was 5'9 and 170 pounds, he lived to block and lived to hit people. He got off on that as much as running the football.
He's told me that the win over Miami in 1994 was his crowning moment. And he didn't have that many yards rushing (80). But it was all heart, with smash mouth running and smash mouth blocking.
He used to have a Shake Chart. He hanged it up in his locker, and it was a list of everyone he juked. If he juked them once, we wrote their name on the list. If he got him again, he'd put a check next to that name.
He was the best.