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One Rome to Rule Them All?

Which UW receivers were the most successful in the NFL?

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This Husky hero from the 1960s played 8 years in the NFL, but did something bigger after that!
Betty Udesen, University of Washington Magazine

Since playoff games and bowl games count as part of season statistics, then barring a meteor hitting New Orleans on January 1, Rome Odunze is going to set the all-time UW record for receiving yards in a season. He won’t quite break the school’s career marks for receptions, yards, or TDs, but he’s absolutely in the conversation for best WR of all-time in purple and gold.

Since we have all of December between now the Sugar Bowl, and since we don’t want literally everything on this site to be only about recruiting and the transfer portal, I thought it would be fun to look forward and think about how Rome, Jalen, Ja’lynn, Jack, Devin, and all the other Dawgs might do in the NFL. In order to look forward, though, it helps to look back, and to that end I’ve created a Sporcle quiz of the top 30 UW players in terms of NFL receptions (and I’ve got more coming soon for receiving yards and more). You can play here and let us know how well you did in the comments!

NOTE: The quiz requires first and last name.

https://www.sporcle.com/games/JasonNelsonUWDP/most-nfl-receptions-by-a-uw-player

An important note is that this includes all UW players who had NFL receptions. That includes not only wide receivers like Rome but also tight ends and running backs. Some are really well known, some are forgotten heroes, some All-Conference and high draft picks, some just guys who repped the purple and gold and clawed their way to a pro career as gritty free agents. One of them used to live next door to my great-aunt Betty down near SeaTac Airport and helped take care of her in her final years (I’m not even kidding).

A lot of you are probably wondering who that guy is in the image for this article, and I have a little connection there too. When I was in undergrad in the late 80s, I worked for a year at the UW “Phonathon,” which was a room of 30ish students getting paid to call alumni and donors to raise money for various UW departments. One night it was the Arboretum Advancement Fund, another the College of Forestry or President’s Library Fund. We got a stack of forms with the information and would call these folks and run through the script and see if we could shake them down for a donation.

One night, I called the guy in the picture. He was kind and patient and asked if I was a football fan, and I said yes. He asked if I knew who he was. I admitted I didn’t. He told me a bit of his story and it was really quite fascinating. He had written a book about his life in and out of football at UW and 8 years in the NFL, and when I say out I mean out. He was the first male professional athlete to come out as gay and to talk about his experiences, and that was a pretty bold move in 1977. His name is David Kopay and the University of Washington Magazine did a great feature piece on him back in 2008. I encourage you to read it here and learn about a true Husky hero on and off the gridiron.

https://magazine.washington.edu/feature/husky-legend-and-gay-icon-david-kopay-is-at-peace-and-at-home/

If you want to know more, you can check out his book, The David Kopay Story. And if you’re wondering, I don’t remember if he made a donation to UW that night, but he did make an impression on me and I’m glad we had those few minutes together. I hope those of you who never heard of him enjoy learning a little more too.

P.S. He’s #21 on the list, so you can have that one for free!