Husky Legend: Riley Set Tone For 1991 Team
Nov. 16, 2007
By Holly Laubacher
Some may give credit to the coaching staff for the WashingtonHuskies' 1991 National Championship. Some may recognize asingularly outstanding player. And others still may give credit for the'91 season to the offense or defense, or maybe both.
Andre Riley has another answer. The four-year letterman andsenior captain gives some of the credit to his 1989 Husky squad.
Riley, a San Jose, Calif., native, was recruited by Don James inthe mid-1980s as a running back. Choosing Washington over NotreDame, Riley spent his first two years as a Husky in the backfield.
Before his junior season, however, Coach James told Riley of hisdecision to turn the running back into a wide receiver. The transitionwas not a difficult one for Riley, because he knew the switch wouldgive him more time on the field to help his teammates.'I felt that I was a big part of the team and I needed to be on thefield every chance I could get,' Riley says.
The decision to move to wide receiver turned out to be the correctone. In his senior season, Andre Riley became the first Husky to goover 1,000 yards receiving in a season.
The record-breaking catch came against the Oregon StateBeavers in Corvallis, the second-to-last game of the season.
'I knew I was close, but when I hit 1,000 yards, Jeff Woodruff, ourwide receiver coach, told me that I broke the record,' remembersRiley. 'It was an incredible feeling.'
The 1,000-yard receiving mark was only one of many recordsbroken during the 1989 season; the season that Riley says turnedHusky football around.
The 1988 Huskies were by no means considered the low point inHusky football. They did not have a losing record and they were neverblown out. In fact, all five of the team's losses were by fewer than 7points. The 1988 Huskies, however, did not go to a bowl game.
The absence of a postseason game was enough to upset theHuskies, including Riley. The team spent the spring and summer of1989 making sure that another non-bowl game season would nothappen to them again. It was over the summer of '89 that the Huskiesdecided to do something special.
Riley says, 'That summer, it was all about us working together toget better. Then when we went into camp and then into the season,there was something just a little bit different, something special.'
The 1989 Huskies went 7-4 in the regular season, but mostimportantly, they made it to a bowl game. The Dawgs beat anEmmitt Smith led Florida Gators 34-7 in the Freedom Bowl. With thepostseason win came confidence. And with confidence came the1990 Rose Bowl win and 1991 National Championship.
Though Riley was not technically a member of the NationalChampionship Husky squad, he argues that it was his team that pavedthe way for the eventual success of the Washington program.
'My senior class all the way down to that freshman class, it wasjust four to five years of success, incredible success. There wassomething special there, year after year.'
Special indeed, as the 1991 National Championship team canattest.
After his record-breaking, team-building four years as a Husky,Riley went on to play professional football for a few years aftercollege. He was drafted in 1990 by the Cincinnati Bengals as awide receiver and was subsequently drafted in 1991 into the WorldLeague of American Football, a spring developmental league. There,he played for the London Monarchs, who went 9-1 and won the firstever World Bowl.
After a brief stint with the Kansas City Chiefs, Riley began hispost-football career, and has led a successful career as the GeneralSales Manager at Seattle radio station KBSG.
In addition, Riley still stays active in Husky athletics. He iscurrently the Vice President of the Big W Club, a program that allowsHusky athletic alumni the chance to stay directly involved with theWashington Athletic Department. The Big W Club reconnects Huskyathletic alums and works with current student-athletes, helpingregulate tuition costs and scholarship opportunities.
Riley says he is involved because he owes it the UW.
'I want to give back to this great university that gave me somuch. It's all about giving back.'
As grateful as Andre Riley is towards Washington, the Huskiesare grateful right back. With his leadership skills and determinationon the fi eld, Riley and his 1989 squad paved the way towards thelegendary 1991 Huskies National Championship.