Walter Bailey had a front-row seat. From the back row.
While a noted defensive playmaker in his own right, the University of Washington cornerback stood in awe as he watched the great Steve Emtman toss around Michigan offensive linemen in the 1992 Rose Bowl like so many bales of hay.
While Bailey helped lock down Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard, Emtman took on multiple Wolverines at a time from the very first snap. It was a super-human showing in the Huskies' decisive 34-14 victory.
"Steve Emtman, single-handedly, through double and triple teams, was basically unblockable," he said. "It was like watching the most destructive, disruptive performance I've ever seen."
This is another in a series of vignettes about the UW's 1991 national championship team, supplementing the conversation for the pandemic-delayed and -shortened season. We're dealing with game 12 of this throwback series, the '92 Rose Bowl against Michigan.
Bailey had his Husky teammates all wondered what Emtman had left as they tried to close out the national-title run.
The All-American defensive tackle, soon to be the NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick, was sick with the flu for the better part of a week, to the point he was taken to a Southern California hospital for fluids.
Knowing this, everyone expected Emtman to be be brave and make an appearance against Michigan but they wouldn't have faulted him had he ended up back on the Husky sideline, gasping for air.
The only ones who felt suffocated were the Wolverines' offensive linemen. Bailey knew all about big-game heroics. He twice returned interceptions for touchdowns during the season.
He was truly entertained by Emtman's dominance.
"He had a ferocious game with all the All-American linemen that they had and it was just beautiful to watch," Bailey said. "He just was amazing to watch."
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