From the beautiful city of Ashland, Oregon, the talented Sonny Sixkiller wanted to stay in state and play for Oregon State. All Sixkiller had accomplished was All State in football, All Conference in basketball and baseball.
But, the Beavers head coach at the time, Dee Andros, who I wrote about in another post, declined to offer Sonny Sixkiller.
Andros didn’t want to recruit Sixkiller due to his lack of size because he was only 5-11, 170 coming out of high school in the Spring of 1969.
When Sixkiller was a sophomore at Ashland High School he was a back up Quarterback to a senior
named Gene Willis who happened to receive a scholarship to play Quarterback for the Washington Huskies. The Huskies were coached by Jim Owens in those years who would later be replaced by one of my coaching heroes, Don James.
Because of Gene Willis’ recommendation, the Huskies took a shot with Sixkiller despite his lack of size or else Sonny Sixkiller may have never gotten a shot at playing for a big time program.
Naturally, he was given the number 6 when he got his football uniform at Washington.
Since freshmen weren’t allowed to play back then, Sonny Sixkiller was not a part of the Huskies struggling to a 1-9 finish in 1969. His old high school friend that actually got Sixkiller noticed by the Huskies coaching staff was the Quarterback in 1969. But, he was incredibly awful finishing with a 33.3 completion rate and 13 Interceptions compared to 5 Touchdown passes.
To his credit, Willis stuck around Seattle and he would back up Sixkiller in 1971 after sitting out 1970. Today’s Quarterbacks tend to transfer when they get passed on the depth chart.
With the tiny 5-11, 170 Sonny Sixkiller as the new starter Quarterback for the Huskies, they improved to 6-4 in 1970.
Sixkiller was impressive with over 2,300 yards passing which was good for 9th in the NCAA standings. Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett led the nation in passing yardage with 2,980 yards. Brian Sipe of later Cleveland Browns fame was 3rd. 1971 Heisman winner Pat Sullivan was 4th and Joe Theisman was 6th. The legendary Dan Fouts who threw for a mind boggling 43,000 yards in the NFL was right ahead of Sixkiller at 8th. This list was almost a who’s who of future Quarterbacking stars.
But, every year after his super sophomore season, his numbers decreased.
Washington had 8-3 records for 1971 and 1972, but the program crumbled after Sixkiller had used up his eligibility. In the 1973 season, the Huskies went 2 – 9 and 5 – 6 before making the change to Don James.
Sixkiller’s stats took a slight downward spiral during his junior year, but the team improved and he did manage to make the cover of Sports Illustrated. He became a fan favorite because of his
He had a rough senior season statistically and missed a few games due to injury. But, his team had a decent record.
He was not picked in the 1973 NFL draft had tryouts with the Rams and with Canadian Football League teams but wound up with the World Football League until it folded. He then tried out with the San Diego Chargers in 1976 before giving up football.
In between pro football tryouts and playing time, Sonny Sixkiller got a part in the original movie the Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds. Since Reynolds is 1/8 th Cherokee and Sixkiller is a full blooded Cherokee, he got Sonny the job.
Today, Sixkiller works as a color analyst for Washington Husky football games.
Oh, and Sonny Sixkiller is offended by the Washington Redskins name in case anyone was wondering.