They didn't have the perfect record of the 1991 national championship team. They didn't have the underdog status of the 1978 Rose Bowl champs. But the Year 2000 Husky football team had the most memorable season in the last quarter centuryor perhaps over the team's entire 111-year history.
One fanatic Husky leaves no doubt about his true colors at the Washington Warm Up before the game.
With five come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter; an electrifying Rose Bowl contest pitting Purdue's Heisman contender Drew Brees against the Huskies' Marques Tuiasosopo; and the tragic injury to defensive back Curtis Williams, the four-month journey from Montlake to Pasadena was a tale fit for the silver screen. And like most Hollywood productions, this one had a happy ending, with a 34-24 victory over Purdue in the Rose Bowl, an 11-1 season and a No. 3 ranking in the final college polls, the highest Husky finish since 1991.
Curtis Williams was flown to Pasadena Jan. 1, and watched the game with members of his family.
While winning was sweet, the most emotional moment of the season was the injury to Williams and the reaction from the team and fans. Williams suffered a spinal cord injury when he collided helmet to helmet with Stanford running back Kerry Carter on Oct. 28. Williams, 22, who also goes by the nickname "C-Dub," spent four weeks at the Stanford Medical Center as doctors tried to assess the permanent impact of the injury. He was transferred to a rehabilitation center near San Jose, Calif., in late November and was expected to be discharged in mid-February to live at his brother's home in Fresno, Calif.
Meanwhile, his team dedicated its season to the injured defensive back, wearing his initials on every jersey. Williams, who so far has only experienced some sensation in his neck and shoulders, was determined to watch his team if the UW made it to the Rose Bowl. Accompanied by family members, a nurse and a medical technician, Williams was flown to Pasadena Jan. 1 for the game. Prior to the contest, he was taken to the locker room, where he met with teammates. There were tears in his eyes as well as in the eyes of some team members as they gently touched him on the shoulder and said hello.
"We all knew we had to do one thing," fullback Pat Conniff said. "We knew we had to play our guts out for the guy. The guy is battling it every single day. The least we could do was go out and battle it out for four hours."
The team made Williams its fourth captain for the game and as the Huskies marched on the field, players gestured to the press box, where Williams viewed the contest.
As he hoisted the Rose Bowl Trophy after the victory, Coach Rick Neuheisel yelled, "This was for you, Curtis." At the postgame press conference, he added, "We had a dream to give our buddy a chance to get a Rose Bowl ring and we achieved it. I promised him after the Stanford game that we'd try to get it done. It was an absolute thrill to have him here."
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