Gary Pinkel picked up Steve Emtman at the airport on a Sunday night.
Emtman was a small-town kid from Cheney, Washington, a rangy recruit from a big farming family who would cram his University of Washington football visit into 24 hours.
A two-way lineman, the lightly recruited Emtman — Washington State University was his only other Division I scholarship offer — also was a high school basketball player in season, keeping him on a tight schedule in Seattle.
Pinkel, who became a highly accomplished and nationally recognized coach at the University of Missouri, was the Husky offensive coordinator at the time whose recruiting area included Eastern Washington.
At the conclusion of his whirlwind visit, Emtman looked Pinkel in the eye and their conversation went like this.
"If I want to commit, what would I do?"
"Call me man. You call me any time. The second you want to commit, just call me. Just call me. It doesn't matter. We'd love to have you."
This is another in series of vignettes about the UW 1991 national championship football team, supplementing the conversation for the pandemic-delayed season that begins soon. We're in week 9, which brought a showdown with USC in Los Angeles. In this installment, we tell the first of several stories about Steve Emtman.
After saying goodbye to Emtman at the airport, Pinkel drove home and went to bed.
At 5 a.m., Pinkel's phone rang. At that early hour, the coach's first reaction was one of his UW players must be in trouble.
His Cheney recruit was on the other end.
"This is Steve Emtman."
"Steve, what are you doing?"
"I want to be a Husky."
Letting that sink in and thinking fast, Pinkel proposed the following to a guy who would become possibly the greatest Husky football player ever, a leader of the 1991 national-title team, a first-team All-American, the Outland Trophy winner and the NFL's top overall pick in 1992.
I know coach James will be really excited," Pinkel said, negotiating the next move, "but I think we should wait until 7 o'clock until we call him."
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