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Road to 1991 Perfection: Donald Jones Was in Tears When Brunell Got Hurt

A spring collision involving a pair of University of Washington defenders and the Huskies' Rose Bowl MVP quarterback was disastrous.

The great thing — and the bad thing — about the 1991 University of Washington defense was it didn't take plays off.

All-America defensive tackle Steve Emtman wouldn't permit it. 

If he wasn't happy with the everyone's energy level at practice, he'd slam his fist on a metal equipment case on the sideline and roar, "Ones, right here!" Everyone would come scurrying over.

Emtman, however, had a bunch of teammates who more often were properly dialed in, such as outside linebacker Donald Jones. They didn't need reminders. They tended to let it all hang out.

On a breezy Thursday afternoon in April 1991, there was no shortage of testosterone while the Huskies scrimmaged in an aggressive manner. It was one of those days where everyone was reaching for something extra. 

"It was a heated spring practice," Jones recalled. "We were going at it, the defense vs. the offense. Ones vs. ones. I was going up against Lincoln Kennedy. When me and him went at it, it was going to be a battle."

Mark Brunell, the Huskies' starting quarterback and the Rose Bowl MVP just three months earlier, wore a green pullover shirt that signified him as untouchable for contact.

Yet on this particular snap, Jones made an inside move on Kennedy and he shot upfield, likely getting shoved by Kennedy in the process. 

Emtman pushed his way free coming over the other side and was moving like a runaway train. 

On this play, everyone had way too much momentum. 

The two players hit Brunell at the same time, a moment marked by the quarterback's scream.

Brunell went down in great pain. Practice came to a dead stop. Trainers attended to the wounded quarterback. They drove him off the field on a cart. Minds momentarily started to drift in seeing their leader suddenly immobilized.

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"When Mark Brunell got hurt, that's when we thought our season was over as far as winning the national championship," Jones said. "At the time, we didn't know how good Billy Joe was. He wasn't a practice player."

This is another in a series of articles and videos that will replay the UW's 1991 national championship season, which is the apex of Husky football. We're six weeks out from the late start to the 2020 season. Meantime, we'll use '91 as a conversation piece.

Catch up with Donald Jones and find out what he's doing now in this second video clip right here. The story continues below it. 

Emtman was such a fearsome, intense player at all times, a lot of guys got hurt that year when encountering him on game day or at practice. Opponents and teammates. The casualty list was a long one, reaching from Seattle to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Over a 20-month span, the 6-foot-4, 290-pound steamroller from Cheney, Washington, left Nebraska fullback Omar Soto and Husky offensive guard David Ilsley with broken legs, UW defensive lineman Tyrone Rodgers with a knee injury that required surgery, Husky linebacker Chico Fraley with a dislocated thumb and Brunell in his immobile state. 

"We call him Mr. Accident," Husky defensive end Andy Mason said at the time.

In this case with Brunell, it was a three-car collision. It was bad. All lanes were shut down momentarily at Husky Stadium. 

As his high-profile teammate was wheeled away and practice resumed, Jones had trouble controlling his emotions. 

"Mark Brunell was like our best player — he was the Rose Bowl MVP," Jones said. "When he got hurt, I was like in tears because I was part of the reason he got hurt."

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