Nearly 30 years since he last officially pulled on the purple for the University of Washington, former defensive tackle Steve Alvord said he and a group of four or five former teammates still gather for most Huskies home games to tailgate and enjoy the games.
Once a year, they try to “chase the Dawgs” and make a road game – often crashing at a friend’s house in Los Angeles when UW plays at USC or UCLA.
“We talk more about what’s going on in our lives now,” said Alvord, who serves as a vice president financial adviser at asset and wealth management firm D.A. Davidson in Bellingham. “We’ve each gone on and built our own lives, and it’s fun talking about our kids and our families. But we always have those memories of playing together, too. We spent four years together, and we have that common thread.”
That thread will now forever tie Alvord and his teammates to UW immortality in the Husky Hall of Fame.
The 1984 Washington football team – winners of the 1985 Orange Bowl – will be one of eight inductees into the Hall at a ceremony Sunday, Oct. 23, at Alaska Airlines Arena. The team will join fellow Class of 2016 members Olin Kreutz (football, 1995-97), Sara Pickering (softball, 1994-97), Nate Robinson (basketball, 2003-05; football 2002), Bob Rondeau (radio announcer, 1978-present), Sanja Tomasevic (volleyball, 2002-05), Brad Walker (track and field, 2002-05) and Mary Whipple (rowing, 1999-2002).
Alvord, who graduated from Bellingham High in 1983, said at least 50 members of the ’84 squad have responded to an email string and are planning to travel to attend the festivities, which Alvord said was expected to include a Friday night gathering at a former teammate’s house near the University District in Seattle and a return to Husky Stadium to be honored at halftime of UW’s game against Oregon State on Saturday, Oct. 22. The weekend, of course, will be capped by the induction ceremony.
“I’ll probably know more about what it feels like after the event,” Alvord said. “It’s kind of surreal now. I have a couple of buddies that are in the Hall of Fame, but it really hasn’t hit me what it means, yet.
“It’s a pretty special group of players that will be going in, I can tell you that, and not just the football team. The six or seven other athletes are all amazing. Plus it will be pretty special, because we have Nate Robinson going in. Nate was a tremendous basketball player, and his father, Jacque Robinson, was a running back on our 1984 football team. So you have a father and a son going into the Hall the same night.
“That’s pretty special. I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
Though only a sophomore, Alvord certainly was a part of it in 1984. He started every game alongside first-team All-American defensive tackle Ron Holmes.
Defensive back Tim Peoples, who interestingly enough was selected in the seventh round by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1987 NFL draft one round before they selected Alvord, was the only other sophomore to start defensively on a senior- and junior-laden squad.
“I got thrown to the wolves,” joked Alvord, who played for the Cardinals in 1987 and ’88 before returning to Bellingham. “I had great teammates around me and great leadership and great coaching. ... They kind of took the pressure off me and let me focus on doing my job. That was the best part of it – I didn’t have to do anything extraordinary. I just had to do my job. That’s what our coaches said, ‘Just go out and do your assignment, and the defense will be solid.’”
The Huskies defense was quite a bit more than solid that season: It was exceptional, earning the nickname “Purple Reign” after allowing just 12.1 points per game, which was second best in the nation that year.
“We were a hard-hitting, aggressive group that gang tackled,” Alvord said. “From our linebackers to our defensive backs – everybody was hard hitting. Nobody was afraid to put a hit on somebody.”
Led by the defense, UW was ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll for four weeks midseason before suffering a 16-7 loss at No. 14 USC on Nov. 10. The Huskies rebounded to beat Washington State 38-29 in the Apple Cup a week later and became the first West Coast team to earn an invitation to the Orange Bowl.
Washington beat No. 2 Oklahoma in Miami to finish 11-1 and No. 2 in the season’s final AP poll behind Auburn and was selected national champions by the Football News.
Getting a chance to relive those memories with his teammates this weekend will be special, said Alvord, who is looking forward to the entire team being honored.
“Football is a team sport,” said Alvord, who will be joined by his wife, Marci; daughters Jessie and Katie; son Brad, father, Reg, and a number of other family members and friends at the weekend festivities. “We had great individuals and you’ll always have that. But when you get a great team that sets out to accomplish the goals they set out to accomplish, that’s special. The second team, third team and scout team – everyone played a part toward reaching that goal. Everybody had to play a part. I look at everyone going in together as a neat thing. ... To us to be in the same sentence as the Husky Hall of Fame, that is pretty amazing.”