Husky TB by Committee is Nothing New, as Sterling Hinds Knows

Forty years ago, the Canadian running back shared the UW backfield with Jacque Robinson and Cookie Jackson.
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For the 1982 Rose Bowl, Sterling Hinds remembers how he was supposed to be the University of Washington starting tailback on that New Year's Day, but a foot injury relegated him to a limited role. 

Who knows, had Hinds been healthier against Iowa, he might have made teammate Jacque Robinson wait another day to introduce himself to the college football world in a big way.

Instead, a third Husky tailback, fellow speedster Ron "Cookie" Jackson, drew the opening assignment in Pasadena and picked up 24 yards on 8 carries.

Subbing in infrequently, Hinds received just 3 carries and rushed for 13 yards against the Hawkeyes.

As for the little-known Robinson, he was asked to pick up the slack and stunned everyone by coming off the bench to rush 20 times for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 28-0 victory. He was an easy choice for Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player accolades.

Fate hit the hole hard and took off in a far different direction than anticipated on that glorious afternoon.

Someone in the postgame news conference asked Husky coach Don James, "Who is Jacque Robinson?"

To which James, tongue in check, responded, "I don't know. I just introduced myself to him. I do know he's a freshman. I checked the program."

Sterling Hinds came from Canada to play at the UW.

Sterling Hinds was a smooth runner. 

From there on, it was Husky tailback by committee, with James using whoever had the hot hand or even sitting the now well-publicized Robinson when his weight ballooned.

Hinds, as a trackman, typically skipped spring football to run the sprints and had to work his way up from the bottom of the depth chart each fall. On game day, the Huskies still made sure to have a fresh tailback on the field. 

"If you got 10 carries, that was really good," Hinds said. "I knew one thing for sure, coach James was going to play the best player regardless. That's what I took to practice."

Forty years later, the Huskies find themselves in a similar situation. With a tailback by committee. The UW has an overabundance of ball-carrier bodies in junior Richard Newton and sophomore Cameron Davis, seniors Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant, and untested redshirt freshmen Sam Adams II and Jay'Veon Sunday. 

The challenge is to give everyone a chance to show what he can do and hope you don't keep the hot guy seated on the bench. 

Four decades ago, Hinds rushed for 188 yards against Stanford, 113 against USC and 103 against Oregon in his Husky career. Jackson went for 147 and 119 against California during his time. Robinson altogether rang up 10 100-yard rushing performances in his four seasons, topped by 203 yards against Texas Tech and accentuated by that 142 against Iowa in the Rose Bowl and 135 against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

Yet another tailback, Vince Coby, had rushed for 112 against Washington State and 103 against USC in 1979 before blowing a knee and ultimately moving to fullback and sharing the backfield with the others. 

"We always cared about each other, befriended each other," said Hinds, who would defend Robinson the following season when he occasionally didn't live up to his newfound hype.

Sterling Hinds was Don James' fastest Husky.

Sterling Hinds finds an opening.

Of the current group of Husky tailbacks, McGrew has the only 100-yard rushing outings so far, picking up 110 against BYU and 106 against Arizona, both in 2019. Newton has the longest breakaway run, a 56-yarder, coming against Arizona in 2020. Pleasant became the starter at the beginning of the abbreviated 2020 pandemic season. Davis kept picking up more carries.

While Robinson a two-time bowl MVP, an Jackson certainly capable of breaking loose, the Huskies had an eventual Olympic Games bronze-medal winner in Sterling Hinds. Sharing a Canadian relay team with Ben Johnson, Hinds was the anchor, a man with blazing speed, always ready to break one.

While he was a respectful and loyal teammate, the Ontario native knew he had a lot more yards in him for the UW, just itching to get out.

"I got a chance to run a couple of kickoffs back but I wish I had had the chance to carry the ball a little more," Hinds said. "I wished I'd got a chance to open it up like I really wanted to." 

Follow Dan Raley of Husky Maven on Twitter: @DanRaley1 and @HuskyMaven

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