He’s known to thousands of Washington Huskies fans as one of the most legendary players in program history. Come Friday, he’ll be a member of the Pac-12 Hall of Honor.
But there was a time when former Huskies quarterback Sonny Sixkiller didn’t even tell his own high school classmates he was going to play college football until there was an assembly.
“We had our senior rally in the gym where everyone’s announcing ‘So-and-so is going here. So-and-so is going there,” Sixkiller said Friday. “They said my name and I said “The University of Washington” and they were like, ‘Whoa!’ That was the first time a lot of people I went to high school with knew I got a football scholarship to Washington.”
The Pac-12 announced in late February it would enshrine a new Hall of Honor class. Usually, the accolade was reserved for basketball players until the conference decided to induct former athletes from all sports.
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What made Sixkiller an honoree was what he did for the Huskies on and off the field.
He was a three-year starter who set numerous school records and led UW to consecutive 8-3 campaigns during his junior and senior years. His Sports Illustrated cover along with “The Ballad of Sonny Sixkiller” still remain as two of the most iconic contributions within UW’s athletic history.
“So when (UW athletics director) Jen Cohen called to tell me the news, I was surprised. I went, ‘Are you sure? Is this real?’” Sixkiller said with a laugh. “She went on to say all the good things ... It was really overwhelming and a big honor to have it.
“The outpouring of responses from people I know, or don’t even know, it’s been pretty overwhelming.”
Sixkiller, despite his well-known persona, is actually a somewhat private person who doesn’t like to make it about himself.
He said it comes from his upbringing in the small town of Ashland, Oregon. A self-described “skinny Native American kid,” Sixkiller would always make a point to say hello to the adults in his community.
That’s how he learned to always value others before himself.
“It was engrained in me early on,” Sixkiller said. “That’s the way you were.”
But that’s not to say Sixkiller won’t share a good story.
For example. What’s the best story about Sonny Sixkiller that nobody knows?
“Lot of people know I was in ‘The Longest Yard,’” Sixkiller said referencing the 1974 cult classic when a former NFL star played by Burt Reynolds leads a group of prisoners in a game against the prison guards. “Lot of people don’t know I was on ‘Hawaii Five-O’ either.”
Wait. Come again?
Sixkiller lived in Honolulu and was playing for The Hawaiians in the World Football League in 1975. His teammate – and roommate at the time, Rick Cassata, went on a casting call for ‘Hawaii Five-0’ and he went along.
Cassata went into another room for the audition and the casting agent asked Sixkiller if he was there to tryout for a part.
“I go, ‘Eh, I hadn’t planned on it.’ She goes, ‘Would you like to?’” Sixkiller said. “I said ‘Sure’ and filled out the form and under ‘experience’ I wrote ‘The Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds.’”
Both Cassata and Sixkiller were given roles. Sixkiller said Cassata’s arm was shown giving a sno-cone to a child.
Sixkiller got the role of a boat captain who was trying to help someone.
Jack Lord, who was the show’s star during its 12-season run, knew Sixkiller from when he played for the Huskies.
“What a great experience I’ve had,” Sixkiller said. “All because I played football at the University of Washington.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark