By Monica Lee
Historically, powerful linemen and Washington’s hard-hitting offense have allowed the Huskies to excel at the running back position. Pete Taggares III, yearly rushing leader from 1971 to 1973, exemplifies the meaning of being a Husky.
As a young boy, Taggares, an Othello, Wash., native, was determined to be a Dawg. When Taggares was about 10 years old, his second cousin, Mike Kuklenski, introduced him to Husky football. Kuklenski was a running back at UW in 1962 and 1963.
“He came over one summer to stay with us on our farm,” Taggares said. “He had this list of all the workouts the University of Washington had sent him to do.
“I watched him and got intrigued by what he was doing.”
After that visit, Taggares got hooked on the Huskies.
“I remember listening to [Husky] games from when I was 10, 11 years old on the radio,” Taggares said. “My mom would let me stay up since they ran the replays of the University of Washington the week after on Thursday at like 10:30, 11 at night.
“I always wanted to listen to those games.”
His favorite Dawgs were halfback Charlie Mitchell (1960, ’61, ’62) and College Football Hall of Fame linebacker Rick Redman (1962, ’63, ’64).
Taggares and his father, Pete Taggares Jr., met head coach Jim Owens at the Sun Valley Lodge in Sun Valley, Idaho – the same coach he would eventually play for. Washington had just finished first in the Pac-8 and competed in the 1964 Rose Bowl.
“My dad went up to [Owens] and said, ‘My son, he’s going to play for the Huskies,’” Taggares remembers. “And Owens was a nice guy – he probably heard that a lot. He goes, ‘Well, that’s good. We’ll be happy to have you.’
“Ever since then, when I started playing football, there was no doubt in my mind I always wanted to play for the U.”
The future Dawg began playing football in the eighth grade. By the time he was a senior, nearly every school on the West coast along with some Ivy League schools had recruited him to play football.
“I got some opportunities from some Ivy Leagues, but I never really took those very seriously,” said Taggares. “I wanted to be a Husky. It was just the formality that if they wanted me, I was going to play there.”
In 1970, Taggares left the small town of Othello for the city to play under the same coach he met in Sun Valley as a boy.
He was forced to redshirt his freshman season with a medial collateral ligament tear. But the running back never gave up on his dream to play for the Huskies.
“A lot of players that have this kind of injury never come back,” Taggares said. “They never play again, but I wanted it so bad that I worked hard on my rehabilitation and I already had it in my mind that if I got hurt again, I was going to play again.”
His determination allowed him to return to the field and become the rushing leader as a sophomore. He had 102 attempts for 401 yards and five touchdowns. He ended the season with 520 yards and six touchdowns.
The 1971 Apple Cup victory marked Taggares’ top single-game performance in rushing yards with 118 yards.
In his junior year, Taggares played the best football of his career. As the year’s scoring leader, he had 11 touchdowns, rushed for 450 yards, and had 27 receptions for 335 yards.
Taggares’ favorite, and arguably best game, is homecoming at Husky Stadium against No. 8 UCLA on Nov. 11, 1972.
“We won that game on homecoming and just the ambiance of it being homecoming, a big crowd, and UCLA being ranked high makes that my favorite game,” Taggares said.
The junior scored all four UW touchdowns in the 30-21 triumph over the ranked Bruins. It is the fourth-highest number of rushing touchdowns in a game in UW history.
Washington’s big comeback win at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind., versus No. 15 Purdue is another game that sticks out in Taggares’ mind.
“We were down 21-0,” Taggares reminisced. “We kicked a field goal at the end of the game to beat them 22-21. The jubilation of the players, the happiness in the locker room, and seeing everyone jump up and down on the sideline -- that was an exciting moment as a player.”
The running back also recorded an impressive 64-yard reception from All-America quarterback Sonny Sixkiller for a touchdown in the 1972 Apple Cup.
Senior year, Taggares was invited to play in the 1973 Blue-Gray All Star Classic held in Montgomery, Ala., on Christmas Day. He was also awarded the 101 Club Scholarship Award, given annually to the top scholar-athlete.
The former Husky running back now resides in Kennewick, Wash., with his wife, Sandy. He is semi-retired, farming, tending to his orchard in the Tri-Cities, and staying in shape.
He has two children, Pete IV and Jessica, who both graduated from UW.
“They bleed the purple and gold. They both love the Huskies,” he beamed.
“Their kids are going to be Huskies too. I can tell you that.”
The elder Taggares has infant twin grandchildren, Pete V and Lexington.
Taggares is extremely grateful to be chosen as tonight’s Husky Legend.
“That was the best time, probably, in my life,” Taggares said. “It means everything to me and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“This is just the frosting on the cake. Getting the opportunity to be honored like this in front of my family and friends is a great thing for me and I’m very appreciative of it.”