By Mason Kelley
Mario Bailey walked down the Husky Stadium tunnel. He passed the plaques commemorating each of Washington’s bowl appearances and the new hand-painted murals. Then he stepped onto the turf.
The Huskies’ remodeled home looks different than it did when Bailey was catching touchdown passes in purple and gold. But, when he walks out of the tunnel, “I still get the same feeling.”
When it comes to memorable moments, Bailey delivered plenty during his time at Washington. The receiver helped the Huskies go undefeated and win a national championship in 1991. But, among all of his accomplishments, one play stands above the rest.
“I’m synonymous,” Bailey said with a laugh.
In the final game of his senior season, Bailey and the Huskies, ranked No. 2 in the country, traveled to Pasadena, Calif. to play No. 4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl. He caught six passes for 126 yards and a touchdown, outplaying Wolverines star Desmond Howard during a 34-14 win.
But it was Bailey’s 38-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown people still talk about.
“Coach (Keith) Gilbertson had a nice habit, but I guess teams didn’t realize it,” Bailey said. “Right after a turnover, if we’re at the 30, 40 yard line going in, he’s going on the streak route. They never considered me the fastest, so I would always beat them on the streak route, because they didn’t expect me just to run by them.”
After he scored, he struck the Heisman pose.
“I was just excited and I thought, ‘Why not?’” Bailey said. “The only bad part is I didn’t do the Heisman pose perfectly, which shows I didn’t practice it. If I had practiced it, it would have come out perfect.”
Earlier that season, it was Howard, the Heisman winner that year, who struck the pose during a win over Ohio State. When Bailey punctuated his performance in the Rose Bowl, he made sure his message was received.
“Everybody around the nation got the point,” he said.
It was the first, and only, time he used the Heisman pose. He didn’t know it would stick with him for the rest of his life.
“Everybody has struck the Heisman pose,” Bailey said. “I went out this weekend, I was in Kirkland on the water and this lady said, ‘My husband told me to tell you, you deserved the Heisman.’”
Then she struck the pose.
“It just doesn’t stop,” he said.
For Bailey, beating Michigan was memorable, because he grew up watching the Wolverines. In fact, his first football memory is Warren Moon beating Michigan in the 1978 Rose Bowl.
Even during his Washington career, coach Don James praised the program in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“To actually play them, and in the Rose Bowl, it was just total excitement,” Bailey said. “We were just mad we didn’t get to go to Michigan. We wanted to go there and play at Michigan. It’s one of those places, one of those stadiums that, if you’re going to play college football, you want to play there.”
Since Bailey never had the chance to play the Wolverines in The Big House, he said he might have to make the trek East when the Huskies play Michigan on the road in 2021.
“Hopefully, in the next few years, when the team gets to go down, I’ll get to go, because I’ve still never been in The Big House,” Bailey said.