Nov. 2, 2004
By CJ Bowles
It has been 18 years since Jeff Jaeger donned the purple and gold of the Huskies, but on Friday, November 5, Jaeger will be able to relive his gridiron glory again when he is inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame.
For the four-year walk-on, the honor could not be a more fitting end to a spectacular career for the Huskies and in the NFL.
"It was kind of a cool thing for me, growing up, being a Husky fan and getting to play there," said Jaeger. "For me the older you get, you kind of look at it with some pride to see what you accomplished."
Today, the Kent, Wash. native still owns many UW placekicking records. Jaeger's 380 points is the most among all Husky football players and his 85 career field goals is the second most in NCAA history. Only Chuck Nelson (.813) has a better career field goal percentage at Washington than Jaeger (.810) and in his four seasons at UW, Jaeger posted the second, fourth, fifth, and seventh best seasons in terms of field goal percentage for a kicker.
For all of his accomplishments, Jaeger remembers two things the best. The first is winning the Orange Bowl in 1985 and the second is the lifelong knowledge he gained from Coach Don James.
"Just being around him day in and day out was special," said Jaeger. "The discipline and organization learned from him was unbelievable and sometimes I still struggle to meet my expectations. Being around him was a real good experience for me. Looking back at my NFL and college careers, I did not realize how lucky I was to be at the Washington."
Jaeger was named a first-team All-American his senior season of 1986 by five different organizations including the Associated Press and Football News. In the 1987 NFL draft, Jaeger was selected in the third round by the Cleveland Browns.
"For me, being a walk-on and getting the kicking job early was great," explained Jaeger. "I kept being successful every year and by the time I was a senior, I had played against guys in college who made it in the NFL, so I thought that I could do it too. I had some good workouts for some teams, but I really didn't know what to anticipate. Being picked in the third round was a nice surprise."
In his first season in Cleveland, Jaeger broke all of the Browns rookie scoring records and finished the year with 75 points in just 10 games played, but it was not until Jaeger began his career with the Raiders that he became a premier kicker in the NFL.
For five consecutive seasons, Jaeger led the Raiders in scoring, including the 1993 season when he led the entire league in scoring with 132 points and was named a Pro Bowler. After seven seasons with the Raiders, Jaeger played the final four seasons of his career with the Bears. Jaeger was forced into retirement in 2000 due to a hip injury. In eight of his seasons, Jaeger scored 80 or more points and he scored more than 100 points three times.
Jaeger finished his 14-year NFL career with 1,008 career points, 667 of which came as a Raider, placing him third on the Raiders all-time scoring list.
Since his retirement, Jaeger has tested his ability as a salesman.
"After I retired, I spent a couple of years of working on my golf game," said Jaeger. "Now I am in my third year of selling residential real estate for Windermere Real Estate. I think it was too early to retire and I am pretty good in business, so it has worked out well for me."
Although Jaeger's career has been over for awhile, he still has an itch for the game. Instead of ignoring the itch, Jaeger is scratching it by passing along his knowledge to Evan Knudson, the Huskies current starting kicker among others.
"He was very instrumental in my development both as a kicker and as a person," said Knudson. "I think of him as more of a friend than a coach. It's to the point where my kicking game physically is so solidified that there's no reason for him to coach, but he gives me confidence by calling me up and giving me positive thoughts and words of advice. He has always been one of my biggest supporters."
Jaeger has been helping Knudson bang field goals through the uprights since the end of his senior year in high school and Knudson credits him as one, if not the main reason, that he is the Huskies starting kicker today.
"He'll say he didn't help with mechanics, but he really did," said Knudson. "One time this summer I asked him how to get my kicks up higher and after watching me kick a couple times he immediately knew what was wrong. I fixed the problem and it was like night and day."
Jaeger does not limit himself to the UW when it comes to coaching lessons either. He has spent time with high school kids in the area and is currently helping the starting kicker at Eastlake High School, near Jaeger's residence.
"When I look back to when I was in high school, I would have killed to work with someone who played in the NFL," explained Jaeger in an energetic tone. "I have players and kids call me up to work with them. I know that I can help them develop a lot quicker because there are things I learned over my career I can fill them in on and I get a charge out of it."
When Jaeger is inducted in the Husky Hall of Fame on Friday, he will be accompanied by his wife Angela, his two daughters, Brook (11) and Lexi (10), and around 30 of his closest friends and supporters throughout the years.
"It's going to be fun for me to have my girls there," said Jaeger. "They were real young when I finished playing, so they only remember going to a couple of games, but nothing is crystal clear. It'll be a neat thing as I get older and special to be included with some pretty big names."
Besides Jaeger, former swim coach Earl Ellis, football players Napoleon Kaufman and Lincoln Kennedy, plus women's basketball player Rhonda Smith and the 1970 and 1971 Men's Crew teams will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Former athletic administrator, Don Smith, will receive the Don H. Palmer Award. For more information on buying tickets to the Husky Hall of Fame celebration, click here or call the Big `W' Club at 206-543-3013.