Road to 1991 Perfection: 'Going to Show You the Big, Bad Wolf of the Pac-10'

Dan Raley

Tommie Smith ran out for pre-game warmups at Stanford Stadium and music was blaring over the public-address system. Remember, this was 1991 and that just didn't happen back then. It was certain that University of Washington coach Don James simply wasn't going to permit Nirvana or Alice in Chains to echo throughout his stadium. 

Smith and his fourth-ranked Husky football team almost took this as a sign that the Cardinal were already celebrating, that they weren't properly respecting their visitors from Seattle. After all, Stanford's consensus All-American offensive tackle Bob Whitfield had promised victory in interviews during the week.

"They just seemed like they had a bunch of swag," Smith said. "We were like, 'This is it, we're going to show you the big, bad wolf of the Pac-10.' "

The Huskies proceeded to do just that, tearing Stanford apart 42-7, with the defense setting a fearsome tone on a sunny day in Palo Alto.

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 don't have a 2020 season for another month or so, so we'll use '91 as a conversation piece.

On a pass play, UW inside linebacker Dave Hoffmann had one of his more memorable well-timed and dim-the-lights hits. He laid out Cardinal wide receiver Ed McCaffrey and left him crumpled and shaken up on the turf. Now this was the father of Christian McCaffrey, the Carolina Panthers' standout running back. 

Late in this one-sided season opener, Husky reserve safety Paxton Tailele crashed through and got a hit on Stanford quarterback Jason Palumbis, and knocked him out of the game with a knee injury.

On yet another pass attempt early on, Smith read the route perfectly and the UW free safety stepped in front of a Palumbis pass for an interception. He thought he might even score until the extra-large but nimble Whitfield chased him down on the sideline and knocked him out of bounds. 

Today, Smith is a Seattle-area truck driver, delivering essential industrial gasses to hospitals, retirement homes and businesses, products clearly needed during a pandemic. 

Whitfield later played for the Atlanta Falcons, established a recording studio in that Southern town and he married and divorced a woman who appeared on The Real Housewives of Atlanta TV show.

Yet nearly three decades ago, Smith felt lucky to survive his encounter with Whitfield while he and his teammates otherwise destroyed Stanford. 

"He was determined to catch me and he did," Smith said. "He had a good angle and he pushed me out. Later in that year, the same thing happened and Bob Whitfield broke some guy's jaw on an interception.

"He caught him again and he hit him in the jaw and broke his jaw. I'm glad it wasn't me."

It appears there was more than one big, bad wolf roaming that landscape.

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