Worst Injury In Husky Football History? 5 Who Got Hurt Bad

Dan Raley

Illinois couldn't stop Bill Douglas. On the opening series of the 1964 Rose Bowl, the fleet University of Washington quarterback ran the option to perfection. 

He pitched right and left to Husky halfbacks Ron Medved and Dave Kopay, both future NFL players. He held onto the football for big gainers. He put the Big Ten entry back on its heels.

On the 12th play of the drive, Douglas faked a jump pass, tucked the ball under his arm and raced around the right end. He gained 12 yards in a hurry, reaching the Illinois 14 where he encountered a final defender.

Douglas tried to cut and a pursuing Illini player -- defensive end Bill Jasko, not his legendary middle linebacker teammate Dick Butkus -- demolished him from behind. The UW offensive leader was hurt bad and everybody knew it as a hush fell over the Pasadena crowd of 96,957.

"When I rolled over, the knee was out of the joint and my foot was pointed the other way," Douglas said. "I knew I was done."

Due to the severity of the knee damage and the enormity of the football setting, Douglas' injury was one of the worst recorded in Husky football history. 

A recent conversation with the former quarterback for a throwback story got us wondering that, out of the hundreds of injuries suffered by UW football players, which ones had the most impact on the program?

Now Husky players get injured each year. They drop like flies. It's the nature of a violent sport in which each open-field collision is likened to experiencing a car accident.

Unfortunately, Douglas' wasn't the worst in school history. Here are the most high profile at Washington:

Washington's single-platoon unit was led by Bill Douglas (11).
Bill Douglas (11) was the Huskies' starting quarterback for the 1964 Rose Bowl game and injured 12 plays into it.Dan Raley photo

Bill Douglas, 1964 Rose Bowl

Illinois was favored by six points, but the Douglas-led Huskies came out ready to play. The junior quarterback moved his team from one end of the field to the other with ease.

When he tried to evade the last man on his keeper, Douglas'  thick cleats stuck in ground and left his knee exposed and propped up like a fence post when he was hit from behind. He left the field on a stretcher. He lasted just half a quarter. 

"You play all your life to play in the Rose Bowl and this happens," Douglas said.

In the locker room, the team surgeon told the wounded quarterback to hold on tight because he was going to reset the dislocated knee right there.

The medical team next put Douglas in a full-length cast and he watched the second half from a wheelchair on the sideline. The next day, he returned to Seattle with his teammates on a chartered flight and was admitted right away at Providence Hospital for surgery to repair ligament damage.

The UW lost to Illinois 17-7 without him. Team followers to this day insist the Huskies would have won that New Year's Day showcase had the quarterback stayed in the game.

There was no denying how crippling the Rose Bowl hit was to him and his career. Douglas played with a heavy knee brace the following season as a senior and he wasn't the same player.

"I remember watching Joe Theismann and his leg injury," Douglas said of the NFL quarterback who suffered a compound fracture on national  TV. "That's how bad mine was."

Don Heinrich got hurt on the verge of the 1951 season.
Don Heinrich was an All-American quarterback in 1950, injured in 1951.University of Washington photo

Don Heinrich, 1951 fall scrimmage

Prior to the 1951 season opener against Montana, Heinrich took off on a rollout in a Huskies scrimmage -- he was supposedly was off limits to contact -- when a deep substitute came up and slammed into him.

The first-team Associate Press All-America quarterback was lost for the season, one promoted as a Rose Bowl year, with a broken right collarbone. The Huskies were coming off a near-miss, an 8-2 campaign. They slumped to 3-6-1 without Heinrich, who underwent surgery at Providence Hospital.

"I was tackled high," said Heinrich, who died from pancreatic cancer in 1992 at 62. "I've been tackled that way before and I don't hurt easily. But I landed on my shoulder this time and my shoulder went numb. It didn't hurt but I knew I'd had it."

Even with the season falloff, UW running back Hugh McElhenny earned All-America honors. He was close friends with the quarterback and incensed that he had to play his senior season without him.

"I don't know who the kid was, but it was a dummy scrimmage and that was so stupid," McElhenny said. "It was dumb. It wasn't even a tackling situation. Dammit, Heinrich was the difference in us going to the Rose Bowl in 1951. Heinie had that extra spark that a winner has."

Bob Schloredt was the MVP of two Rose Bowls and injured between.
Bob Schloredt was the MVP of two Rose Bowls and injured in between.Rose Bowl photo

Bob Schloredt, 1960 UCLA game

Schloredt led the Huskies to a 44-8 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin in the 1960 Rose Bowl, was named the game's most valuable player, completed a 10-1 record and earned first-team AP All-America honors.

The following season, he was a serious Heisman Trophy candidate, a Sports Illustrated cover boy and fully expected to return his team to Pasadena. 

What could go wrong?

Everything. 

At a time for one-platoon football, Schloredt pulled double duty as a defensive back. Against UCLA in the fifth game of the season, he tackled Bruins end Marv Luster, the two crashed to the ground with Luster on top and Schloredt broke his left collarbone in the second quarter.

Tough guy that he was, Schloredt played three more plays before the pain became too unbearable to continue. He pulled himself from the game.

Schloredt watched the second half in street clothes, the Huskies won 10-8 without him and he was taken to Providence Hospital to have his collarbone reset. He was done for the rest of the regular season.

The senior-laden Husky team somehow made it back to the Rose Bowl without its normal leader, who healed fairly quickly and was able to play in the game again. 

"If I was going to break a bone, I picked a helluva bone to break," said Schloredt, who died in 2019 at 79. "I had a great blood supply there."

After his long layoff, Schloredt entered the Rose Bowl against No. 1-ranked Minnesota on the game's second series. He had 31- and 22-yard gains on quarterback draws. He ran and passed for touchdowns in a 17-7 victory and was selected game MVP again.

"You knew you might break the collarbone again but I didn't worry about it," Schloredt said. "I came in and everybody said, 'Hey Bob, let's go.'"

Mark Brunell suffered a serious knee injury in spring football in 1991.
Mark Brunell was MVP of the 1991 Rose Bowl and injured the following spring.University of Washington photo

Mark Brunell, 1991 spring practice

After leading the Huskies to a 46-34 Rose Bowl victory over Iowa and earning game MVP honors as a sophomore, the fleet-footed Brunell went into spring practice looking to build on his success.

During an afternoon workout, the quarterback stood in the pocket looking for a receiver when he went down. He got sandwiched between outside linebacker Donald Jones defensive tackle Steve Emtman, the latter an overly aggressive player who would earn the Outland Trophy, received first-team All-America honors and become the NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick that season.

Brunell rammed into a crawling Emtman, but the collision was severe enough to do significant damage. The quarterback tore ligaments in his right knee. Two trainers helped him off the field and he rode a golf cart out of the stadium. He had surgery at the University Medical Center. 

"I don't think anyone's real comfortable with it," coach Don James said of the injury before a full exam was conducted on his quarterback.

Brunell was forced to give up his starting job to backup Billy Joe Hobert and the Huskies managed without him far better than expected. Hobert directed the Huskies to a 34-14 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl, a 12-0 record and a co-national championship. 

Brunell played in eight of those games as a reserve. He reclaimed his starting job a year later when Hobert was found to have accepted an improper loan and suspended. Brunell took the Huskies to another Rose Bowl and enjoyed a long NFL career. 

Most of all, he recovered from getting destroyed by Emtman, which was an ordeal in itself. A lot of people were sidelined by the big guy.

"It could have happened to anybody," Brunell said. "It's a joke now, like Steve's hurt a lot of guys, stay away from him."

Curtis Williams was a great UW safety, paralyzed in play at Stanford. He passed away in 2002.
Curtis Williams was a great UW safety who passed away in 2002.University of Washington photo

Curtis Williams, Stanford 2000

Williams, a physical defensive back, came up and met Cardinal fullback Kerry Carter at the goal line on a slippery field. The contact was ferocious. The outcome was disastrous.

Watching from the end zone, William's younger brother Paul, a high school junior, laughed at the play, thinking he would kid the Husky safety about it later.

"Curtis was a known as a big hitter and he looked like he just got run over on the field," said Paul Williams, then a high school kid and later a Fresno State and NFL wide receiver. "I was laughing, thinking he was going to get up and start playing again. He didn't get up."

Curtis Williams was left paralyzed with a spinal-cord injury on Oct. 28, 2000. The rest of his life would be a difficult existence in hospitals, wheelchairs and nursing care until his death 19 months later because of complications related to his injury.

Another brother, J.D. Williams, would come to Washington from California as the defensive-backs coach in 2006 and stay three seasons, largely because of his late brother. He's now at Fresno State.

Curtis Williams, after he was injured, lived long enough to attend the 2001 Rose Bowl and cheer for his teammates against Purdue and Drew Brees from a wheel chair in the press box. He also urged Paul Williams not to give up football.

"I didn't really want to play football after he got paralyzed," Paul Williams said as a college player and coaching now at Fresno City College. "He said, 'I want to see you play.' I'm playing for him now."

In 2006, J.D. Williams and Paul Williams met as opponents when the UW hosted Fresno State at Husky Stadium, where a No. 25 was etched into the turf. A coach and a receiver. Brothers dealing with an emotional afternoon.

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