I kind of made an executive decision on the fly as I put together this series to devote a separate entry to special teams players.
It seemed fitting since it can be argued special teams players aren’t necessarily just offensive or defensive. It also seemed fitting since for years, the Huskies were known for their special teams prowess, be it field goal kicking, coverage or returning. It also allows us to honor a few more players.
Special teams obviously encompasses a lot — kicking, punting, returning, snapping, covering. For the purposes of this list, I’m confining it to kickers/punters/returners.
1, Chuck Nelson — Washington’s had an awful lot of good kickers through the years. But Nelson is the only unanimous consensus All-American pick in school history, that coming in 1982 when he set an NCAA record by making 25-26. That he missed one that might have sent UW to the Rose Bowl that year has sadly sometimes clouded what an amazing year Nelson had otherwise. UW wouldn’t have made the Rose Bowl in 1981, for instance, if not for Nelson’s kicks in the monsoon against USC. His 81.3 career percentage (61-75) remains a school record as well.
2, Jeff Jaeger — We start with two straight kickers, who maybe should be 1A and 1B. Jaeger hit 85-105 field goals in his career, following Nelson as Washington’s kicker — and meaning the Huskies were an astounding 146-180 on field goals from 1980-1986, which did an awful lot to carve the program’s reputation for special teams. Jaeger was also a consensus All-American in 1986 but fell just short of being unanimous (that darn Sporting News).
3, Beno Bryant — Running back handled KO returns as a freshman then punt returns the rest of his career and returned three for touchdowns in 1990 and another in 1991, a career total of four that remains the school record.
4, Mark Lee — Right with Bryant as maybe the best punt returner of the Pac-10 era, he also had three punt returns for touchdowns in 1979 including a memorable game-winner against Oregon.
5, Sean Douglas — Set UW’s career record for punting average at 42.8 from 2004-06.
6, Anthony Allen — Handled both punt and KO returns during career, leading UW in both during the Rose Bowl winning year of 1981, when he was the all-conference returner.
7, Charles Frederick — May not have lived up to the vast hype that greeted his arrival, but has two of UW’s top six longest punt returns of all time and had a game for the ages at Oregon State in 2003 with a school-record 371 all-purpose yards that inclued an 87-yard punt return. Was all-conference returner that season.
8, Joe Jarzynka — Few players on any of these lists had the cult following of Jarzynka, who went from a walk-on from Gig Harbor to all-conference as a returner in 1998. Is third in career punt return yards overall and his 91-yarder against Cal in 1998 was UW’s longest of the Pac-10 era. And as many of you noted I should have initially included, he spent much of the 1998 season as UW’s kicker, hitting a long of 44 in the Apple Cup.
9, John Anderson — Kicker from 1999-2002 made six from 50 or longer during his career, which remains a school record. And will always be remembered for all the OT kicks to beat WSU in 2002 and the game-winners against USC and Arizona State in 2001.
10, Erik Folk — Too soon for Folk to make a list like this? Well consider that he had some of the most memorable kicks of the era with the game-winners to beat USC two straight years. And his career percentage of 31-41 (75.6) is third all-time behind Nelson and Jaeger.
Honorable mention: Mike Lansford (long pro career but was at UW just two years); John McCallum (80 percent success rate in 1990 best of someone not named Folk, Nelson or Jaeger); Ryan Fleming (ably handled punting on 2000 Rose Bowl team); John Werdel (solid punting from 91-93); Thane Cleland (ditto 84-86); Rich Camarillo (like Lansford, long NFL career but at UW just two years); Tommie Smith (deserves mention somewhere on these lists, was team’s leading kickoff returner in 1991 when UW rarely had to do that); Steve Jones (his 1,397 KO returns yards from 86-88 second in school history); Louis Rankin (set school record with 976 KO return yards in 2007 when UW had to do that a lot); Andre Riley (460 punt returns yards in 1986 second in school history).