Note: This article is inspired by Sports Illustrated’s: The Dream Game: Written by Austin Murphy for the January 13, 1992 issue of Sports Illustrated. Let’s use the Time Stone to see what Washington football could look like in a few years
It’s February of 2023 and for the first time in 31 years, the Washington Huskies have won the national championship. The Washington football program had an incredible run in the 2022 regular season, led by Heisman finalist Sam Huard. As he raises the national championship trophy to a sea of purple inside the new home of the Rams and the Chargers in Los Angeles, he says to a disgruntled Kirk Herbstreit, “This is why I committed to Washington, to bring a national championship back home. Now, this group of guys will forever be known as hometown heroes.”
As he turns, the group of the best recruits to ever come out of the state of Washington steps forward. Sav’ell Smalls, J.T. Tuimoloau, Emeka Egbuka, Geirean Hatchett, Julien Simon, Sam Adams, Will Latu, Kelee Ringo, D.J Rogers, and Ayden Hector all step out of the crowd of purple-clad players on the stage and surround Huard. As one, they raise the national championship trophy.
The game was hard fought, but in the end, a fade route to the nation’s leader in touchdown receptions, Johnny Wilson was the difference maker. “This is why we stayed home,” says Smalls “we wanted to show out for our home town, and we didn’t disappoint.” After being robbed of a playoff appearance the year before, resulting in a Rose Bowl berth and victory, the Huskies rolled through the Pac-12, proving the nation that they deserved a spot in the CFP.
The Huskies are loaded with pro talent, and Chris Petersen’s staff is (finally) starting to be recognized by the media as the best in the nation. Ringo and Smalls are both projected to be top 10 picks and continues Jimmy Lake’s success of getting defensive backs drafted in the first round. Ringo is drawing Patrick Peterson comparisons by NFL scouts leading up to the season, and Smalls is drawing comps to Von Miller.
On the offensive side of the ball, it’s all about Huard, who came in as a true freshman, showed off his incredible leadership skills, and won the job during one of the most heated and hotly contested spring quarterback battles. Throwing to the veteran receiving corps of Jalen McMillan, Wilson, Austin Osborne, and Trey Lowe. Marquis Spiker entered the NFL Draft after the 2022 season, and after the recent success of Aaron Fuller and Ty Jones at the next level, the prowess of UW wide receivers is on the rise thanks to Junior Adams.
Quite arguably the best storyline on a team full of incredibly talented players is the four senior defenders who decided to stick around. Faatui Tuitele, Jacob Bandes, Daniel Heimuli and Joshua Calvert, four standout players during their junior seasons, all decided to return for their final year with one goal in mind, winning a national championship. All season, they played with their hair on fire. Bandes and Tuitele combined for 12 sacks during the season, while Heimuli and Calvert look like reincarnations of Mason Foster and Ben Burr-Kirven.
None of this would have been done without the bell-cow back, Sam Adams. Out of all the stars on offense, it was Adams who shined the brightest during the 2022 regular season, scoring 21 total touchdowns and rushing for over 1,200 yards. Running behind the fierce offensive line led by Hatchett, and senior tackle Nathaniel Kalepo, the hometown hero follows in his father’s footsteps and is selected as an All-American.
While it was Adams who was the biggest playmaker during the season, the championship game and the true spotlight belongs to Huard, who made this possible. “I always knew where I wanted to go and it was my dream forever,” said Huard after his commitment to Washington, which was almost five years ago. He’s the one who truly set the culture and the one who brought all his national championship-winning 7 on 7 teammates from Ford Sports Performance with him.
The national championship game’s MVP, Huard also deserves recognition as the glue that brought it all together. When Huard committed as a sophomore in high school, he sent a message that was felt by everyone else in his class, and the class before him. This program was building something huge, and it has all come to its epic explosion on the field in Los Angeles, thanks to Huard. Chris Petersen wanted to build a national championship winning program, and thanks to this exceptional group of hometown heroes led by Huard, Smalls, and Tuimoloau, there’s a new standard in college football.