UW Great Heinrich Dies Of Cancer -- Qb Synonymous With Husky Football

Don Heinrich, the golden arm of Husky football, is dead at 61.

Heinrich, a Bremerton sports legend who became a two-time All-American at Washington, died Saturday at his home in Saratoga, Calif. He had been battling cancer of the pancreas and liver and related medical problems since June.

Heinrich's name has been synonymous with Washington football since he quarterbacked the Huskies in 1949, 1950 and 1952 (he missed the 1951 season with a shoulder injury). He was an All-American in 1950 and 1952.

He and All-America running back Hugh McElhenny have been the most prominent links between Husky football past and present.

"We became very very good friends . . . and over the 40-some years we've gone through some trials and tribulations, and no matter what, both of us were there for each other," McElhenny told KIRO radio.

"The nice thing is he stayed so close to the university," Husky Coach Don James said. "He helped us recruit from the time I first got here. He was master of ceremonies at our banquets. The university has lost a close friend."

In January, after the Huskies won a share of the national championship, James immediately called Heinrich on the telephone.

"He said, `You're part of this,' which, of course, is a nice thing to say," Heinrich said after James' call.

Heinrich, named the quarterback on the Husky centennial team in 1990, was inducted into the college football Hall of Fame in 1987. He set virtually all the UW passing records, which stood until Sonny Sixkiller showed up almost 20 years later.

Heinrich still is No. 4 on the Husky career passing list with 335 completions out of 610 attempts (55 percent) for 4,392 yards.

Heinrich and McElhenny had been expected to play together for three seasons (1949, 1950 and 1951). Because of an injury suffered by McElhenny in 1949 and the shoulder injury by Heinrich in 1951, they only played one full season, in 1950.

It was a memorable one, capped by one of the strangest Washington-Washington State games ever.

With the Huskies leading 45-14, Heinrich was on the bench, believing he had established a national pass-completion record of 133 for one season. With time running out, it was learned that Heinrich only had tied the record. A player suggested that WSU be allowed to score so Washington could get the ball back.

After the Cougars scored an uncontested touchdown, Heinrich completed a short pass and the record was broken. Moments later, McElhenny broke loose on an 84-yard touchdown run, a romp that gave him 296 rushing yards for the game and still is a UW record. The Huskies won 52-21.

After college and a stint in the Army, Heinrich played seven years with the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys of the NFL. He coached with Dallas, the Giants, New Orleans, the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers before joining the San Francisco 49ers in 1971.

He was San Francisco's defensive back coach and quarterback coach from 1971 to 1975.

In 1976, Heinrich became the color analyst on Seattle Seahawk radio broadcasts, sharing the booth with play-by-play announcer Pete Gross for six seasons. He later was the analyst on Husky broadcasts with Barry Tompkins.

"He was so personable," Gross said of Heinrich. "He was so knowledgeable and he did such a nice job of conveying that knowledge to listeners."

Gross said he and Heinrich stayed in touch ever since he left the Seahawk broadcasts to become part of the 49ers broadcast team in 1982. Gross, who has battled cancer since 1988, said he last talked with Heinrich Thursday.

Heinrich's other business interests involved publishing and operating the Don Heinrich All-Star Football Camp in this state. He worked for Los Angeles-based Prime Ticket as the analyst on the cable-TV network's Pac-10 games of the week last season.

Heinrich was born in Chicago on Sept. 19, 1930. But he grew up in Bremerton, where he became an outstanding athlete.

Survivors include Barbara, his wife of 39 years; a daughter, Lauri, San Ramon, Calif.; three sons, Kyle, of Seattle, Michael and Kurt of San Jose, Calif.; and nine grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled at St. Andrew's Church in Saratoga at 4 p.m. tomorrow. A memorial service is scheduled Friday in Seattle, at 4 p.m. at the University Congregational Church.

A scholarship in Heinrich's name has been established. Contributions can be made to the Don Heinrich Scholarship, Tyee Center, GC-20, University of Washington, Seattle, 98195.