On The ’39 Washington Huskies

Washington Huskies right halfback DEAN MCADAMS (# 60), the dual threat passer/punter who was destined to be the eighth overall player selected at the 1941 National Football League Draft when snapped up in the first round by the short-lived Brooklyn Dodgers, side-steps a would-be Oregon State Beavers tackler at the line of scrimmage during the Pacific Coast Conference tilt at Husky Stadium in Seattle on October 21, 1939.

Heading into the 1939 NCAA football season, the early October fixture on the road in Seattle against the enigmatic WASHINGTON HUSKIES certainly figured to be a most daunting hurdle for the first-year head coach Babe Horrell and his promising UCLA BRUINS.

In 1938, it had been predicted that a highly experienced Washington team would be seriously contending for the Pacific Coast Conference title and the accompanying trip to the prestigious Rose Bowl contest. But never materialized after head coach Jim Phelan’s charges failed to win their first five games of the season with only a 12-12 draw against Idaho to show for their efforts. Among the disappointing results had been the 13-0 loss to UCLA at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — this setback marked very first time in school history that the Huskies could not defeat the Bruins and must have been frustrating because Washington had outgained UCLA in total yardage (185 to 134) that day.

True to their mysterious nature, the Purple & Gold rebounded well to win three of their last four games and finish with a reasonably respectable record (3-5-1). The highlight of Washington’s season was easily the 7-6 triumph over the visiting USC Trojans, then ranked # 9 in the Associated Press poll but on their way to season-ending triumphs over # 1 ranked Notre Dame and # 3 ranked Duke in the 1939 Rose Bowl. Another positive for Phelan to build on for the future was the fact that the Huskies, who had managed to score a grand total of just six touchdowns over the course of their first nine games, were able to cap off their 1938 NCAA campaign with aplomb by notching four touchdowns in the 26-0 rout of the arch-rival Washington State Cougars.

For the season that was to follow, however, the Washington Huskies would have to replace no fewer than 17 lettermen, including seven players who were earmarked by National Football League clubs :


# 14 overall …….. Philadelphia Eagles ……….. QB – Charles NEWTON
# 88 overall …….. Washington Redskins …….. HB – Jimmy JOHNSTON

# 100 overall …… New York Giants …………… HB – Merle MILLER
# 118 overall ……. Washington Redskins ………. G – Steve SLAVINSKY
# 127 overall ……. Detroit Lions …………………… G – Art MEANS
# 172 overall ……. Pittsburgh Steelers ………….. E – Frank PETERS
# 198 overall ……. Washington Redskins …….. FB – Al CRUVER

472 net yards rushing and a healthy 5.3 average yards per carry proved that Johnston (6’2″ 190 lbs) had been one of the Pacific Coast Conference’s very best ball carriers in 1938 while Means (6’0″ 207 lbs) and Slavinsky (5’10” 203 lbs) were chosen First and Second Team All-Pacific Coast by the Associated Press, respectively … Miller was the leading rusher (456 yards, 3.9 avg) for the strong Washington squad (6-2-2) that ended its 1937 NCAA campaign rated # 13 in the land by the Associated Press but suffered through a senior season that was marred by both injury as well as indifferent form.

wash-huskies-jay-macdowellBut the Washington Huskies, however, still had plenty of quality players returning to the program in autumn of 1939 including JAY MACDOWELL, the imposing junior end (6’2″ 197 lbs) who was selected First Team All-Pacific Coast by the Associated Press as a sophomore after leading his school with eight pass receptions for 139 yards (17.4 avg, one touchdown) in 1938. The native of Oak Park, Illinois, who was always a threat to carry the ball on the old “end around” play, would again pace Phelan’s Huskies by hauling in another dozen aerials for 230 yards (25.4 avg, two touchdowns) in 1939. MacDowell was ultimately recognized by either the Associated Press or the United Press (if not both) as First Team All-Pacific Coast at the conclusion of each of his three varsity seasons for the University of Washington and was named First Team All-America in 1940 by NEA Sports Syndicate as well as the New York Sun newspaper before becoming the 19th overall player selected at the 1941 National Football League Draft when chosen in the third round by the Cleveland Rams.

RUDY MUCHA had been a promising 210-pound fullback for the Huskies when the 1938 NCAA campaign began but was shifted to the offensive line just before Washington’s contest with the neighboring University of Oregon at the tail end of his sophomore season. This particular move by Phelan would prove to be a rather wise one as evidenced by the fact that the Chicago native, by the end of his first full year at center, would be honored in 1939 as a Second Team All-Pacific Coast selection by both the Associated Press as well as the United Press. Further proof arrived after the 1940 NCAA season when Mucha, who would become the fourth overall player chosen at the 1941 NFL Draft when picked in the first round by the Cleveland Rams, earned recognition as the country’s consensus All-America center after being cited by no fewer than six of the nine major organizations that named an elite team at that time.

DEAN MCADAMS spent most of his sophomore term watching the departed Johnston (a Second Team All-Pacific Coast selection of the Associated Press in 1938) lead the Huskies with 586 yards of total offense (472 rushing, 114 passing) from the right halfback position. The 195-pounder from Caldwell, Idaho, was able to show exceptional skill as a punter (42.3 avg) during limited action in 1938, though, and also gave a glimpse of the future by coming off the bench to throw for one touchdown and run for another in Washington’s season-ending triumph over eternal enemy Washington State. As a junior, McAdams would quickly assume the role of the Huskies’ preferred passer and ended up ranked third in the entire nation after completing 46.1 % of all his passes (35 of 76 for 477 yards, two touchdowns, five interceptions) in 1939.

The very versatile McAdams, who surpassed the sum of his predecssor Johnston by accounting for 717 yards of total offense while scoring two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) as a junior, was named First Team All-Pacific Coast by the United Press in 1939.


To help celebrate Phelan’s 10th season in charge at Washington, the Huskies harvested a bountiful crop of sophomores in 1939 — five of these first-year varsity players would eventually be taken in the 1942 NFL Draft :

G ….. Ray FRANKOWSKI ……… # 24 overall – Green Bay Packers
E ….. Earl YOUNGLOVE ……….. # 43 overall – Philadelphia Eagles
HB … Ernie STEELE ……………… # 81 overall – Pittsburgh Steelers
FB … Jack STACKPOOL ………… # 83 overall – Philadelphia Eagles
T ….. Gene CONLEY ……………. # 182 overall – Cleveland Rams

Frankowski established himself as a fixture at right guard for the Huskies from the moment he was first eligible in 1939 and would develop into the first University of Washington player ever to be named to any All-America team in consecutive years (1940 & 1941). Conley was noteworthy if only for the unusual “birdcage” facemask he wore to protect his eyeglasses while Younglove caught five touchdown passes and rushed for another in his three years at Washington. The productive backfield combination of Stackpool and Steele equally divided the 18 touchdowns scored between them during their respective three-year varsity careers with the Huskies.

Steele became an immediate weapon as a punt returner right off the bat for Phelan’s Huskies in 1939 and amassed 318 yards (12.2 avg) in that statistical category, a figure that placed the Washington sophomore halfback eighth among all elite college football players in the nation that season.

A trio of Washington Huskies — fullback JACK STACKPOOL (# 16), center Ray MUCHA (# 70) and right halfback ERNIE STEELE (# 29) — can do nothing to prevent Pitt Panthers halfback DICK CASSIANO from scoring a touchdown during the second quarter of the NCAA season-opener for both teams at Husky Stadium in Seattle on September 30, 1939.

Chester L. Smith had acknowledged that the Washington Huskies were slight favorites to beat the visiting Pitt Panthers in an article published on the day of this landmark contest. But the Sports Editor of the Pittsburgh Press had it all wrong as the Panthers, who became the very first team in history to make a transcontinental journey by plane across the width of America in order to play a gridiron football game, used a strong aerial attack and two blocked punts to blow away their hosts 27-6 at Husky Stadium in Seattle. Washington fullback DON JONES, the senior ball carrier who would be chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles in the ninth round (# 72 overall) of the 1940 NFL Draft, registered the Huskies’ first touchdown of the new season with a short plunge in the third quarter but Pitt quickly recovered to add two more scores of its own in the final period.

All the players’ attention is focused skyward immediately after the visiting Pitt Panthers have blocked this particular kick from Washington Huskies right halfback DEAN MCADAMS (center of photo), the multi-talented junior who was the 12th-best punter in all of major college football after recording an average of 40.1 yards per boot (70 punts) in 1939, during the NCAA inter-sectional clash at Husky Stadium on September 30th of that eventful year.


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