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Originally published Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Football Notebook | Jim Owens offered trip to Norman

Before Jim Owens became a legendary coach at Washington, he was a legendary player at Oklahoma. Reminded of that history recently as the...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Before Jim Owens became a legendary coach at Washington, he was a legendary player at Oklahoma.

Reminded of that history recently as the schools prepared to meet for only the second time, UW coach Tyrone Willingham invited Owens and his wife to accompany the Huskies on their charter flight to Oklahoma for Saturday's game.

Owens, 79, will be unable to attend due to health problems, his daughter, Leslie Owens Hinkle, wrote in an e-mail.

"But I can't tell you how heartfelt and overwhelmed he was when he received the invitation from Coach Willingham," Hinkle wrote.

Willingham said he has made similar offers to other former UW coaches before, though he wouldn't elaborate.

"It's not a big deal," he said. "It's what we do."

In these parts, Owens is best known for his 18-year career as a UW head coach, reviving the program when he led them to the 1960 and 1961 Rose Bowls, winning each one. He finished with a 99-82-6 record and three Rose Bowl appearances.

But in Oklahoma, he's known as a two-way end for the Sooners from 1946 to 1949, the final three seasons playing for Bud Wilkinson. Owens, a native of Oklahoma City, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1982, the sixth Sooner at the time to receive that honor.

Wilkinson is quoted on the College Football Hall of Fame Web site as saying Owens was "undoubtedly one of the best football players I've ever coached."

Owens' UW career was marred by racial unrest late in his tenure. Memories of those days were revived when there were some protests over a statue built in his honor outside Husky Stadium in 2003.

Willingham, the first African-American football coach at UW, said none of that history played into his decision to invite Owens to the game.

"No statement [was being made]," Willingham said. "He's one of our former coaches that we like to keep close to our program. We like keeping our former coaches as close as they like to be to our program. I have great respect for what he's done and for all of our former coaches."

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Hinkle said Owens, who lives in Montana, hopes to be well enough to attend a UW home game this season.

Returning to Norman

While UW has never played in Oklahoma, at least two current Huskies have been there for a game.

Backup quarterback Johnny DuRocher was on the sideline with Oregon when the Ducks lost there in 2004. It was DuRocher's last game at Oregon. He left the school the following Monday, eventually transferring to UW.

"It was packed and it was loud," said DuRocher, who didn't play in the game. "The thing that's cool about playing there is the fans are so close, they are right on top of you. But they are real classy fans, real football savvy. They know the game."

Linebacker Scott White watched OU beat Kansas State in 2001 during a recruiting trip. He almost decided to become a Sooner before choosing UW instead.

"It really came down to here or there," said White, a San Diego native. "They were coming off their national championship [in 2000] and I really felt like their scheme fit my style of play. But I didn't feel like the lifestyle in Oklahoma fit me. Ultimately, that's what kept me from going there. Seattle was a better fit for my lifestyle. I'm a city kid and Norman didn't appeal to me from that aspect."

Notes

• Willingham said CB Dashon Goldson "looked a lot better" during Tuesday's practice. Goldson, who was starting before suffering a high-ankle sprain, was on the field for only a handful of plays against San Jose State. Secondary coach J.D. Williams said he anticipates Goldson being able to play more Saturday.

• DT Jordan White-Frisbee was wearing a red jersey and not participating during the part of Wednesday's practice that was open to the media. His foot appeared to be in a boot.

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