Nov. 24, 2009
By Michael Jeremiah
In the early 1990's, a vicious hit and a kind word were dealt to a number of opposing ball carriers courtesy of Husky linebacker Dave Hoffmann. Undiscriminating between quarterbacks, receivers or running backs, Hoffmann flew around the field during his five year stint at Washington, making plays and leaving opponents on their backs, but not without a "God bless you."
The two-time All-American linebacker from San Luis Obispo, Calif. came to Washington in 1988. At that time, the Huskies were only a few years removed from their Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma, but still looking for the group of players that would push them over the top.
Those five players were crucial parts to the Huskies continued rise to national prominence, capping off their junior year with the National Championship after Washington's victory over Michigan in the 1992 Rose Bowl.
The Rose Bowl victory and National Championship are the biggest tangible accomplishments of Hoffmann's career, but that's not the most rewarding part of his time as a Husky.
"It was the overall hunt," said Hoffmann. "The hunt all the way to the national championship and the three Rose Bowls that we had - working hard to achieve excellence and then maintaining it. We didn't go out there just to win; we went out there to dominate. We were a bunch of guys that loved to battle and loved the preparation and hard work that went into it."
The moment that most Husky fans undoubtedly remember Hoffmann by wasn't a hard hit or interception. When the Huskies travelled to Eugene for an important conference match up with the Ducks, Hoffmann set the tone for his teammates before the opening kickoff. His own words best describe the scene.
"Down at Oregon, of course they were like [Washington State], there's not a lot of love for us. I'm used to everybody hollering at us but these guys were getting boisterous and they started throwing dog biscuits at us," said Hoffmann.
"I didn't notice it, but then Jim Lambright picked one up and called us in. He was about to give us a talk and I pulled up my helmet, grabbed and started eating it. One thing I noticed is that the fans there got really quiet."
While Hoffmann admits it wasn't the best thing he's eaten, it helped the team get focused and go about their business that day.
Hoffmann's business at Washington was to patrol the middle of the Husky defense, and there are few who have done it better. His throwback style and nose for the ball made him a contributor throughout his career at Washington, and a star in his final two seasons.
His junior year, Hoffmann was part of the dominating defense that led the Huskies to an undefeated season. Hoffmann built on a solid junior season as a senior in 1991, and was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.
His on-field intensity was matched by an extroverted off-the-field personality. After his playing days at Washington, Hoffmann hosted a show with fellow Husky and close friend James Clifford. "Hoff and Cloff" would dress up in duck hunting gear and other gags that Husky fans loved.
Unfortunately for his playing career, Hoffmann's health was on the decline when he left Washington. He was drafted by Chicago -- also played for the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers -- but an injury and release from the 49ers in 1995 forced him to look at life after playing football. A tremendous work ethic and obvious knowledge of the game seemed to point towards coaching.
"There's times that I can't deny that I love the game. I think down the road it might be fun to coach," said Hoffmann.
Hoffmann chose a career in public service instead. The son and older brother of clergymen, Hoffmann went to work for the government. Currently based out of Washington D.C, Hoffmann is in his 11th year working as an agent with the United States Secret Service.
Based across the country, Hoffmann still is present around the program today. Seattle is still a place he considers home. His wife is from Seattle and his brother, former Husky defensive tackle Steve Hoffmann, still lives in the area.
Hoffmann attended spring practice this year and even spoke to the Huskies about his career. His connection with the program is helped by the fact that Coach Steve Sarkisian counts Hoffmann as his favorite Husky of all time. The respect is mutual.
"I think if I went back 20 years and put myself in the place of a high school kid, I would love to have played for a guy like that," said Hoffmann. "Every year they will get better and better and when they hit the crest, they are going to be there for a long time."
The Huskies didn't go to a bowl when Hoffmann was a freshman and the hunger from no postseason spurned him on to great things later in his career. In the same way that devouring a dog biscuit calmed his teammates two decades ago, Hoffmann points out that all Huskies should be enjoy the ride to the top with Coach Sarkisian at the helm.
"I think people need to enjoy the hunt of getting there right now," said Hoffmann. "They'll be at the top of the pack before too long."