Husky Legend: Jeff Pahukoa
Sept. 26, 2008
He was there during the glory days. When traditions were not just lived,they were built. He idolized the concept of work. He played with the likes ofGreg Lewis, Mario Bailey, Steve Emtman and Chico Fraley during one of thebest stretches of football in Washington history.
Jeff Pahukoa stepped onto campus in 1987 as a 6-foot-3, 270-pounderfrom Marysville, Wash. In present day terms, 270 pounds would make for agood-sized defensive end. Instead, Pahukoa was an offensive lineman whowould start at three different positions in his career. For perspective, the 2007UW offensive line averaged 309 pounds.
Evidently size mattered little.
Pahukoa was one of three players to forgo their redshirt year in 1987. Theothers were Eugene Burkhalter and Lewis. On a team that had been to eightstraightbowl games under legendary coach Don James, he would be a starter.
Pahukoa was the first true freshman to start on the offensive line in the first12 years under James.
'The farthest thing from my mind was that I was going to start as afreshman,' Pahukoa said. 'It was all new to me. I went in not thinking I wasgoing to play.'
But he did play, and for that matter, he played well. Pahukoa started inparts of his first three seasons as Washington won the Independence Bowl in1987 and the Freedom Bowl in 1989.
'That first season we went to the Independence Bowl,' he said. 'For methat was awesome. But relative to the standards at UW, that was very subpar.
'[My] junior year we became a group and you could definitely feel that. Wewent to the Freedom Bowl and we built from there. Guys wanted to get better,faster and stronger. It was an exciting time to be part of that.'
In his final season at the UW, Pahukoa and the Huskies finally accomplishedtheir goal: winning the Rose Bowl. The team plowed through the season,literally, as they rushed for more than 2,500 yards, and found themselvesplaying Iowa on Jan. 1.
But to Pahukoa the 46-34 win in Pasadena wasn't even the highlightof the year.
'We opened [Pac-10 play] with USC,' he said. 'We weren't picked to win.We prepared probably more than we ever had for a game. And we went outand there and took a team that was supposed to win and compete for thenational title and beat them 31-0. That was a great memory.'
The Huskies racked up nearly 450 yards of total offense against the fifthrankedTrojans as they beat them for the first time in Pahukoa's career. 'I justsaw purple. That's all. No numbers, just purple,' Trojans' quarterback ToddMarinovich would say after the trouncing.
That 1990 season was a great one for Pahukoa and the Huskies. Heblocked for Lewis as he set the then-record for rushing yards in a season with1,407. Lewis went on to win the Doak Walker Award, while Pahukoa earnedfirst-team All-Pac-10 honors.
'We wanted Greg to have 100 yards in every game,' Pahukoa said. 'At thesame time we wanted to make sure [Mark] Brunell never got touched.'That was just half of the story for Washington and for Pahukoa. Jeff'syounger brother, Shane, played on the other side of the ball for the Huskiesduring his final two seasons.
'I had someone very close to me on defense,' he said. 'To be able tocome off as an offense and stand on the sideline while our defense causednothing but havoc was a great thing.'
These days, with his brother living in California and his five-year NFL careera distancing memory, Jeff is back where it all started for him. A coach at LakeStevens High School, he often talks about his experience with his players. Hehas found it isn't quite the NFL, but nonetheless, a rewarding lifestyle.
'On Monday we had awards handed out, stickers for helmets and stuff,'he said. 'We came to practice and the head coach said, `coach can you holdthese.' One of the kids here said, `wow, you went from playing in the NFL toholding stickers for us.'
'I love working with these kids. I have an advantage of having been thereand they know that. They want to know everything I can tell them. That makescoaching fun.'
Pahukoa certainly has been there. He was part of the recruiting class thatwon the 1991 National Championship. But, because he did not redshirt, likemany of those in his class, he missed out on the 1991 National Championshipseason. He jokingly asked Coach James where his ring was.
While he missed out on the national championship season, few outsidethe program understand like he does the work that went into earning thatperfect season.
'We had guys that were all Pac-10 and guys that played in the NFL,' hesaid. 'But when you know you have a (tail)back that works hard and wantsto succeed, you don't want to be the one that's holding him back. You workharder in the weight room. You work harder at practice. You work harderwatching film. As a kid you don't realize that what you are doing is takingyourself from an average player to an All-Pac-10 player. The things we did foreach other made all of us All-American level players.'
It made them national champions too.