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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 25, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Five questions on Dave Hoffmann with Derek Johnson

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Dave Hoffmann, who was a standout linebacker for the Huskies from 1989-92 and a team captain as a senior in 1992, is one of six former UW athletes who will be inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame this weekend.

Here are details on the Hall of Fame.

Hoffmann is also the subject of a new book called “The Husky Hitman” by local author Derek Johnson (available in hardcover, Kindle and Nook, at www.derekjohnsonbooks.com).
Hoffmann will be in town this weekend for the induction ceremonies, so I thought it appropriate to ask Johnson about the book project and Hoffmann’s UW career. So here are five questions, with Johnson’s answers:
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Q1: What led you to do a book on Dave Hoffmann and why now?

A: Late in the 2011 season, Washington closed out the old Husky Stadium by getting whipped by Oregon on a chilly November evening. Featured that night, however, was the 20th year reunion of the 1991 National Championship team. They were introduced to the crowd during the game — and the fans responded with seismic gusto. For me, it was bittersweet, in seeing those old guard Dawgs that we all loved back in the day, while simultaneously watching the modern day Ducks run over our Huskies like a mere speed bump on their way to the Rose Bowl.

Early the next week, the idea of writing a book with Dave materialized in my mind. He and I had known each other for seven years and had become good friends. I knew he had a unique worldview and possessed a vigorous use of language. I also knew that he didn’t mince words in depicting the violence and grittiness of football in the trenches. He’s also a very humble guy and I figured we would work together smoothly to produce a unique book about football.

When I asked Dave about it, he prayed on it for a day and then said something like “Let’s get after it!” We began work on it right away. God, it was a lot of fun.

Q2: What was something you learned about Hoffmann that hadn’t been known prior?

A: I never knew that he had a stammering problem growing up. What was interesting was Dave’s belief in how that stammering problem gave him no choice but to become supremely confident in himself. A lot of people in life would view a stammering problem as the root cause and an excuse for lacking confidence. But not the case with Dave.

Q3: Was there anything you learned about what made those 90-92 defenses so good?

A: Before this book, I assumed that those Husky defenses were simply supremely talented and highly motivated. But I became acutely aware of another key dynamic. More than anything, there existed a culture of absolute commitment to domination and success, predicated on supreme love and trust for teammates. Dave talks about it all the time… being in a culture where each team member gives every ounce of effort everyday, in order to constantly to prove to the other team members that they could be counted on in the heat of battle during game day.

To illustrate the point, here’s a quick sample from the book, when the Huskies trailed the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the second half in Lincoln, Nebraska, in September 1991:

The Husky defense returned to the field and the intensity felt there was a screaming crucible. The coaches signaled in the play to Hoffmann and he turned toward his teammates to give them the call. “The huddle was a cherished place for me,” Hoff says. “We were all prepared with our game plan. All tuned up physically and mentally to destroy an offense. The tension was big time. To be perfectly mentally clear in the middle of a violent battle is something I love. To make crystal clear, lightning-quick decisions while about to snap into a 315 pound lineman is awesome. Our huddle was a brotherhood of locked-on warriors who were away from the coaches, sideline and crowd– it was just us. The discussions in our huddle were always about giving each other confidence. Pumping each other up and reminding ourselves not to worry because we had each other covered. We had a bead on Nebraska’s offense and each of us were beating the guy across from us. We felt urgency to find a way to win. I believed in my heart we were going to win. We were going to show these guys what we were all about.”

At one point in the third quarter, the Huskies trailed Nebraska 21-9. But they rallied to win that day, 36-21.

Q4: Where do you think Hoffmann deserves to be placed in the history of UW linebackers?

A: At least in my lifetime, Dave would have to be in the top five. When I interviewed Don James for the book, he said, “As a football coach, you would love to have 100 Dave Hoffmanns on your team.” That spoke not only to Dave’s ability at linebacker, but also to his absolute dedication to success, fanatical loyalty to teammates, and impressive levels of toughness on the field.

Dave was the only finalist for the Butkus Award. But among the other great UW linebackers would be the likes of Dan Lloyd, Michael Jackson, Joe Kelly and Mark Stewart. If we’re talking about pass rushers, no list would be complete without Donald Jones. And if my Dad were looking over my shoulder as I typed this, he would be quick to clear his throat and remind me that Rick Redman was a monster at linebacker in the mid 1960s.

Q5: The book pretty much ends with the end of Hoffmann’s UW career. But he’s had an interesting post-playing career in the Secret Service. Is he still doing that? What is he doing these days?

A: Yes, he’s been with the Secret Service since 1998. For various reasons, we left references to that out of the book. He obviously can’t talk about a lot of it, but he’s had an interesting career and met intriguing people. In fact, one day while working on the book I was trying to get a hold of him. He emailed me saying he just got home from George Clooney’s house doing a protection assignment for the President. Good times.

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