Molden and Kaufman Have Something in Common — They Stayed to the End

Mike Martin

Elijah Molden has been afforded every opportunity to leave for the NFL, where his father Alex once played, but he hasn't exited.

Declare early? Nope.

Opt out? Nah.

Unlike teammates Joe Tryon or Levi Onwuzurike, the University of Washington senior cornerback from West Linn, Oregon, appears determined to use up all of his college football eligibility before pursuing the pros.

There's still work to be done.

By staying, Molden has conjured up memories of Napoleon Kaufman.

This then newly named first-team, All-Pac-12 cornerback, delivered a late Christmas present to UW coach Jimmy Lake last December when he announced on social media he would play another season.  

Molden's stature as one of the top defensive backs in the country already was assured.  He could have gracefully exited, attended the NFL combine with several teammates from the UW, had his named called in the April NFL draft and soon after begun cashing sizable paychecks.

Molden stayed put.

He's watched as former UW teammate Budda Baker signed a four-year, $59 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Baker became the highest-paid safety in NFL history. 

Yet Molden chooses to do what Kaufman did. 

He's watched as Husky tight end Hunter Bryant, running back Salvon Ahmed and quarterback Jacob Eason each entered the NFL draft as underclassmen, all landing on a pro roster or practice squad earning paychecks.

He's wished Tryon and Onwuzurike well in their NFL pursuits during the Pac-12 football postponement. More underclassmen, leaving eligibility behind.

But he didn't join them in an early departure.

Molden has work to do at the UW. 

Same as Napoleon Kaufman, the great Husky running back, once did.

In 1992, when the then Pac-10 banned the Washington football program from bowl games, induced scholarship limits and placed the Huskies on probation, Kaufman could have opted out of his final two seasons.  

Yet he chose to stay and finish what he started. That move went a long way in keeping the Huskies together when it looked like all could crumble.  

In 1993 season, with Kaufman in the backfield, the Huskies finished 7-4 and beat all of their Pac-12 North opponents, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, California and Stanford. 

That was much-needed stability for a program reeling from the resignation of coach Don James.

Kaufman's presence kept things together.

Supplying big game after big game, the fleet tailback became the UW's team most valuable player in 1993 and 1994. He was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year in 1994 and Associated Press second-team All-American.  

Kaufman stayed to the end with the Huskies and it did not go unappreciated in Seattle. 

He became a first-round draft pick, taken 18th overall by the Oakland Raiders, and spent six seasons in the NFL. He retired to enter the ministry. He proved highly unselfish when no one would have faulted him for moving on.   

It's a lot like what Molden is doing now during the pandemic-delayed season soon to start. 

Molden and Kaufman.

Two Huskies of the same breed.

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AimeeAllen
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