Going Back for Seconds: 8 Fastest UW Football Players

Sterling Hinds ranks as one of the Huskies' speediest footballers. But he's the only one with an Olympic medal.
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Sterling Hinds once was one of the fastest men in the world. Yet these days his legs don't carry him much beyond his hometown of Mississauga, Ontario, south of Toronto, because of the pandemic.

More than three decades removed from the University of Washington football program, Hinds remains the fleetest player in the Don James era (1975-93), christened as much by the legendary coach himself. 

The one-time running back, 59, firmly holds a spot among the most elite speedsters to ever pull on a Husky uniform. 

They're so tightly bunched together with their 40-yard dash times — with the notable exception of John Ross — they're practically interchangeable.

Ross, of course, ran a record 4.22 seconds at the 2017 NFL combine to set himself apart from any footballer from any school who's ever covered this designated distance in front of pro scouts.

At his UW pro day, Hinds opened everyone's eyes with a 4.28, causing others to check his equipment.

"When they called me over, I thought I'd done something wrong," he said. "They wanted to see my shoes. They thought I was wearing spikes."

Hinds is different because he's the only one of these football-minded Huskies who possesses an Olympics medal.

In 1984, he anchored Canada's 4x100-meter relay team to a bronze medal at the Los Angeles Games, sharing it with the controversial Ben Johnson and Tony Sharpe and Desai Williams. Their time of 38.70 was just tenths of a second, a blink of the eye, behind a Carl Lewis-led U.S. team and Jamaica. 

He grew up in a family of sprinters. His older brothers Jerry and Doug ran for Lamar University, both made the Canadian national team and Doug competed in those '84 Olympics in the 400-meter dash.

Hinds found himself drawn more to football. He personally marketed himself to Washington, Stanford and USC for football, using a highlight tape financed by a fund-raiser at his high school. He had an uncle, Melvin Dodd, who lived in Seattle.

"As soon as I got to the airport, I knew that's where I wanted to go," he said of the UW. "I wanted to play in the Pac-10."

He shared tailback time with Jacque Robinson and Ron "Cookie" Jackson, all of whom became Husky starters. When called on, Hinds always was ready — he rushed for 188 yards against Stanford, 131 against Oregon. 

Had he not been banged up, he would have played more in a 28-0 victory over Iowa in the 1982 Rose Bowl, which was Robinson's coming-out party the true freshman became the game MVP.

Simultaneously, Hinds ran Husky track, teaming up on a blistering 4x100-meter relay team with fellow football player Dennis Brown, basketball player Byron Howell and full-time trackster LaNorris Marshall.

"They called us the Atomic Dogs," Hinds said. 

He outran another football player turned track man in Herschel Walker in the 100-meter dash at the NCAA championships. The guy was the Big Hulk. 

"When I met him I thought he was a shot-putter or a discus thrower," Hinds said. "He was like a door. He had that high-pitched voice. Out of the blocks, he was very explosive. I ended up beating him."

He finished his UW football eligibility in 1983 and postponed his pro football interests until after the Olympics the following summer. The Dallas Cowboys wanted to draft him. Instead, he went home to the CFL and the Toronto Argonauts.

In his second outing, Hinds scored a touchdown and injured a knee. He played eight times over two seasons for the Argonauts and retired to a world of selling real estate and mortgage brokering.

His bronze medal brought him immense satisfaction. In the big picture, though, it was almost an afterthought.

"I loved track," Hinds said. "I knew that it would always help my football."

Picture these guys in the blocks, side by side, bending and shaking their legs, getting ready to run:

Fastest Football Huskies

1) John Ross (4.22)

The wide receiver and kick returner put his elite speed to electrifying use for the Huskies, scoring five times from 90 yards or more, including 100-yard kickoff returns against BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl and against UCLA. In his junior and final season in 2016, Ross caught 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was a second-team Associated Press All-American selection. He's played four seasons in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals.

2) Ja'Warren Hooker (4.27)

Predominately a track man, Hooker scored on an 89-yard kickoff return as a true freshman against Arizona, going the distance the first time he touched the football as a Husky in 1997. He caught 6 passes and scored 3 times as a wide receiver. The following season, he had a 61-yard kickoff return but got hurt on the play. He played just two football seasons. One of the UW's greatest track men, he qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics but did not compete in an event.

3) Sterling Hinds (4.28)

The Canadian tailback led the Huskies in rushing with 826 yards in 1983 when he was a senior, 1,340 for his career. He had a long touchdown run of 53 yards against Navy that season. He spent three seasons on the UW track team. Competing in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Hinds earned a bronze medal in the 4x100-meter relay. He spent two seasons in the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts. 

4) Napoleon Kaufman (4.28)

This speedster left the UW in 1994 as its all-time leading rusher with 4,401 yards, since broken, and ran for more than 1,000 yards for three consecutive seasons. Kaufman scored four times from 70 yards or more, topped by a 91-yard run against San Jose State as a senior. He was a second-team AP All-American as a senior. He lettered during the 1992 season on the Husky track team. He played six NFL seasons for the Los Angeles Raiders.

5) Marvin Kasim Jr. (4.29)

The wide receiver had tremendous speed and strength, but his UW career stalled out. After sitting out a couple of seasons and attending junior college for a year, Kasim joined the Huskies, spent time on the scout team and played enough to letter in 1998, but he never caught a pass. He lettered the following year as a track athlete, winning short sprint events. 

6) Dennis Brown (4.3)

He played two seasons each as a Husky cornerback and tailback. On offense, he finished with 455 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns in his career, with a 48-yard run his longest. He lettered for three seasons on the UW track team. Brown ran on the same 4x100-meter relay team and in the backfield with Sterling Hinds. 

7) Rashaan Shehee (4.3)

The only one among this group not to run Husky track, Shehee had a 2,381-yard rushing career in 1994-97, including 1,055 as a senior. He had long touchdown runs of 85 yards against Washington State and 80 against Stanford. In his time at the UW, he shared the backfield with the notable Napolean Kaufman, Lee Neal and Corey Dillon. He played three NFL seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs. 

8) Beno Bryant (4.3)

He rushed for 1,826 yards in his UW career in 1989-93 and showed his breakaway abilities with long touchdown runs of 55 against USC, 65 against California and 73 against Arizona. He ran a season of Husky track in 1990. Bryant briefly played in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks.