Washington Huskies helmet sits during a football game against the Washington State Cougars in the second half at Martin Stadium. The Huskies won 28-15. Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Every decade or so, the Washington Huskies suddenly find themselves competing for a national championship. The 2023 season has been one of those seasons, but there have been plenty of great years and great football teams in the past.

The Huskies have produced their fair share of great players, including some Hall of Famers. Narrowing it down to the 10 best Huskies of all time was a hard task.

Here is our list of the 10 great Washington Huskies football players of all time.

Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) throws a touchdown pass against the California Golden Bears during the second quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium.
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10. Michael Penix Jr., quarterback

There are some great Washington Huskies quarterbacks on this list but Michael Penix, Jr has already done enough to cement his place among them. Penix, along with Oregon’s Bo Nix, are two frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy, and with good reason. Penix has thrown for over 3,500 yards and 28 touchdowns with more football left to play. Not only could Penix potentially win the Heisman, which would be the school’s first, but he could help lead them to their first national championship in over 30 years. We’ll have to rethink his spot on this list if he pulls it off.

9. Marques Tuiasosopo, quarterback

Marques Tuiasosopo was a machine at quarterback for the Huskies between 1997 and 2000. Tuiasosopo started his career as a backup for Brock Huard but came off the bench when Huard was injured, leading them against the eventual national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers. He threw for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns in that loss, providing a glimpse of what was ahead. By about the time he got to his senior year, he was Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and led the Huskies to a Rose Bowl victory over Drew Brees and Purdue. He finished his college career with over 5,500 passing yards and 31 touchdowns.

8. Mark Brunell, quarterback

Mark Brunell began his Washington Huskies quarterback career in 1989 and really came into his own during the 1990 season. He finished that year with 1,732 passing yards, 14 passing touchdowns, and 10 rushing scores. He led the Huskies to a Rose Bowl victory over Iowa and was named Rose Bowl MVP. 1992 was a huge year for the program but Brunell was unseated at quarterback by Billy Joe Hobert due to injuries. Both quarterbacks played in what would be a national championship season. Brunell would reclaim the starting role at the end of his senior season, leading UW to a third-straight Pac-10 title and another Rose Bowl berth. He finished his Huskies career with 4,008 passing yards and 42 total touchdowns.

Washington Huskies running back Napoleon Kaufman
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7. Napoleon Kaufman, running back

Napoleon Kaufman was Washington’s all-time leader in rushing yards for 23 years (4,106) and 200-yard games (4), third in rushing touchdowns (34), and tied with Chris Polk for most rushes for 50+ yards with six. Kauffman made the All-Pac-10 team three times and was Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year in 1994. He still holds the school record in all-purpose yards with 5,832 yards.

6. Hugh McElhenny, running back

Many young Huskies fans may not know the name Hugh McElhenny but they should. McElhenny was a great Huskies running back of the 1950s who was an All-American and a two-time first-team All-Pacific Coast team member. McElhenny holds the school single-game rushing record with 296 yards, which he did against cross-state rival Washington State in the Apple Cup. In his career against the Cougars, he rushed for 578 yards and seven touchdowns. McElhenny would go on to have a spectacular NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers and is now in the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame.

5. Corey Dillon, running back

Before he became the Cincinnati Bengals all-time leading rusher, Corey Dillon made his mark at Washington. Dillion set the school’s single-season record in rushing yards (1,695) and touchdowns (24) in 1996. Also that season, Dillion set an NCAA record for yards in a quarter against San Jose State with 305 all-purpose yards. He would end up as an All-American that year too. Dillion would not only play for the Bengals but went on to win a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots.

4. Lawyer Milloy, strong safety

Lawyer Milloy is one of the best defenders to ever play for the Huskies. In 1995, he won the Jack Tatum Trophy, was recognized as a unanimous All-American, earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors, and was awarded the Jim Thorpe Award. He also became the first Husky defensive back to lead the team in tackles since Tony Bonwell recorded 142 tackles in 1972. That season he garnered 115 tackles, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one interception. Milloy went on to have a successful NFL career with four different NFL teams, winning a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots.

Washington Huskies offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy
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3. Lincoln Kennedy, offensive tackle

The Huskies have had some great offensive linemen in their day, but perhaps the best was Lincoln Kennedy. Kennedy was a unanimous All-American, a two-time Morris Trophy winner, and a Jim Parker Award winner as well. He is also a national champion who played in the Rose Bowl three times and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015. Kennedy would go on to have a 10-year career in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders.

Washington Huskies defensive tackle Steve Emtman
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2. Steve Emtman, defensive end

The most decorated defensive player in Huskies history is Steve Emtman. Emtman is a unanimous All-American, Outland, Lombardi, and Bill Willis award winner. He is also a two-time Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and was named United Press International’s Lineman of the Year. Emtman was also the rare defensive player to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 1991. That season, Emtman had 62 tackles and 20.5 tackles for loss. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Emtman went on to for five years in the NFL for three different teams before injuries cut it short.

Washington Huskies quarterback Warren Moon
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1. Warren Moon, quarterback

Before Warren Moon was an All-Pro NFL quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer, he was the starting quarterback of the Washington Huskies at a time when it was still pretty unheard of to have a black starting quarterback. Moon not only proved to Washington fans but to the college football world, that black quarterbacks were smart enough and good enough to succeed. As a Husky, he was Pac-8 Co-Player of the Year in 1977 and a Rose Bowl champion in 1978. In his college career, Moon threw for over 3,400 yards and 20 touchdowns in his college career. Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson, and Michael Penix Jr. can all thank Warren Moon for showing the football world that black quarterbacks are good enough to play, to start, and to be stars.

About Stacey Mickles

Stacey is a 1995 graduate of the University of Alabama who has previously worked for other publications such as Sportskeeda and Saturday Down South.