Dressed to the nines, former Husky wide receiver Anthony Allen left his home to attend the memorial service of Don James last Sunday. As both a Rose Bowl and Super Bowl champion from his days with the Washington Redskins, Allen harbors many fine memories.
But when he ran into former teammate and quarterback Tim Cowan, they discussed their final play as Huskies in the 1982 Aloha Bowl.
The Huskies were in Hawaii, and trailing Boomer Esiason's Maryland Terpians 20-14 with 0:11 left in the game. Washington had the ball on the Maryland 6-yard line. Don James called time out.
"I had never went to the sideline before, on any level for any team," Allen recalled. "I just wanted to see what was going on and be part of the conversation. As a captain, five years in, I had the utmost respect for the coach. And obviously, you know how the coach feels about you and the quarterback and QB coach Ray Dorr."
As the discussion commenced, Allen blurted out a suggestion. "How about that 2-point conversion play we ran against Oregon like eight weeks ago?"
Offensive coordinator Bob Stull was upstairs in the booth. He was confused by the disembodied voice.
"Who said that?" Stull asked.
"That was Anthony," Don James said. "Well, what do you think?"
"Not a bad idea," Stull said.
Don James gave the green light and Cowan and Allen jogged back out to the field to rejoin the huddle. "Obviously, coach James always signed off on the plays that were that big," Allen said. "He went with a play that I suggested, from a player who had never suggested a play before!"
The Huskies broke huddle and approached the line of scrimmage.
"We had called a corner route," Allen said. "I was lined up tight to the left like a tight end almost. Paul Skansi was a little nicked up and wasn't in on that final drive. Aaron Williams (Kasen Williams' dad) went in motion from left to right, which left me alone on the left side. As I look out, I see the cornerback, but they knew we had to get into the end zone. He was already 5 yards outside me already, and I was like `Damn! How am I going to get to the corner of the end zone when he's just standing there already? This might not work!'
"At that point, you've got to do something to make him move and come inside some," he said. "You adjust your route and look inside. For some reason, and I don't know why, he bit on the inside fake, which enabled me to get behind him and get to that corner. Tim's pass was great!"
Allen made the catch toward the back corner of the end zone. Chuck Nelson's subsequent extra point kick was good, and the Huskies won a thrilling 21-20 game.
"What was best was that it was Christmas Day," Allen said. "I met people after the game, and met people long after that, who said `you made our Christmas.' Bigger than anything, we made a lot of Husky fans happy."
At the memorial service last Sunday, Allen sat with thousands of other former Huskies and fans, to pay final respects to the Dawgfather.
"It was a very sad day," Allen said. "I was thinking back on his Thursday afternoon meetings two days before the game. He was big on 48 hours of preparation before the big game. I was thinking how prepared this man was and how he gave some of the best speeches you've ever heard on Mondays and Thursdays.
"Then to go to the memorial, and find out that this man planned his whole memorial already. He had met the band members, he knew every song that was going to be sung. He had them sing the songs to him while in the hospital bed. That was Don James. He was prepared, always, to the bitter end."
In talking about Don James, Allen was asked if he was surprised that a statue hadn't been built for his former coach.
"I'm not," he said. "I'm not sure they appreciate the things he accomplished and the legacy he left behind. I listened to coach Sarkisian at the memorial, talking about trying to do the same fundamental things that coach James did in his 18 years. I don't think that's necessarily right either. Coach James came in behind Jim Owens, and he didn't say `I'm going to continue doing what Jim Owens did.' I don't think coaches should try to emulate what their predecessor did. Coach James did exactly what he wanted, how he was going to do it, and if you had a problem with it, that was your problem. He was going to do it his way. He did it his way, and he ended up one of greatest coaches in Husky history.
"So as for the statue being built, I think they still have some fallout on how he resigned. That's my personal opinion. They just don't appreciate everything that he did."