From Puyallup to the pros and back, Damon and Brock Huard bleed purple and gold as they blaze a bright trail as alums.
By Derek Belt
SEATTLE — Los Angeles can look awfully good to a kid from the Pacific Northwest. Just thinking about the bright lights and endless summers can warm you up on a chilly, damp afternoon in Puyallup.
That was the case for 18-year-old Brock Huard in the winter of 1994. The nation’s top high school quarterback prospect and younger brother of then-UW signal caller Damon Huard, Brock had just returned home from a recruiting visit to UCLA. And he loved it there.
“I was seriously considering” joining the Bruins, he recalls. But the Huskies won out and Brock succeeded his older brother as Washington’s starting quarterback in 1996 after Damon graduated and went to the National Football League. Brock, too, would end up in the professional ranks, leaving as UW’s all-time leading passer after erasing several of Damon’s single-season and career passing records.
Damon, himself a star prospect out of Puyallup High School, didn’t waver in making his college decision back in 1991. “There was no doubt,” he says today. “I had always dreamed of being a Husky. To stay in my own backyard, it was a dream come true for a young guy.”
Things weren’t as clear-cut for Brock, the Gatorade National Player of the Year. There was just too much to like about the beautiful Southern California sunshine. Ultimately, he decided on the UW because staying home meant staying in the Northwest—for good.
“Damon and my dad both said if you want to lay down roots here, if you want to be part of this community, you could go win the Heisman Trophy at UCLA but you’re not coming back here. You’re just not going to have that kind of connection to the community. You’re going to be a UCLA guy in a purple-and-gold town. There was some real wisdom in that,” says Brock, now 39.
It’s been nearly 20 years since Brock left school college after his junior year to join Damon in the NFL. Today, both are back home in the Seattle area, enjoying remarkable success in broadcasting and other business ventures.
Damon, 42, is Husky football’s director of external relations and lends his name recognition and community ties to the athletic department’s fundraising efforts. He’s also the color analyst for Husky football radio broadcasts alongside play-by- play man Bob Rondeau.
Brock co-hosts a popular sports talk radio show on 710 ESPN Seattle and serves as a color analyst for ESPN’s college football television broadcasts. Together with father Mike Huard, who coached all three of his sons during a 17-year, hall-of- fame career at Puyallup High School—youngest brother Luke played collegiately at North Carolina—the Huards are the First Family of Northwest football. That standing has only intensified with the brothers’ current success.
“You know, I used to be Coach Huard, but now I’m the father of Brock and Damon and Luke as well,” Mike Huard says with a laugh. “It’s fun, though. People we meet will say ‘Are you related to Damon Huard?’ Or they’ll tell me Brock made fun of me on the radio again.”
Damon played 12 years in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. He was 14-10 as a starter and won two Super Bowl titles as Tom Brady’s backup in New England. Brock played six seasons for the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts, where he backed up a young Peyton Manning.
In 2000, the Huards became the NFL’s first set of brothers to start for two different teams on the same Sunday—Brock for the Seahawks in a game against the Denver Broncos and Damon for the Dolphins against the Colts. “We won and Brock got knocked out of the game,” Damon says, grinning from ear to ear. “How’s that for brotherly love?”
They were also the backup quarterbacks in the very last game played in the Kingdome—Miami’s 20-17 win over Seattle in a 1999 playoff game— and squared off again in the 2003 AFC Championship game as backups for Manning and Brady. “He’s with the Colts and I’m with the Pats,” says Damon. “Mom and Dad are going to the Super Bowl either way.”
As members of the media, they even called the same game for radio and television, respectively. Damon joined Rondeau on the radio for the Huskies’ 2010 conference opener at USC, while Brock handled color commentary on ESPN2. Washington won the game 32-31 on a last-second field goal.
Rondeau, the UW’s play-by- play man since 1980, fondly recalls the games that both Huards started for the Huskies during the 1990s and enjoys working with each of them now. “They have unbelievable brotherly love, and that goes to the closeness of the Huard family,” Rondeau says. “I’m not surprised either of them is doing as well as they are. They are not shy about working hard.”
An injury in Brock’s final year with the Seahawks placed him on injured reserve, meaning he could not play for the rest of the season. During that period, KING-5 TV approached him and asked if he would consider joining Paul Silvi on the Notre Dame-Washington postgame show.
The following year, Brock’s retirement from pro football coincided with the Seahawks’ 2005 run to the Super Bowl. He had been doing local media up to that point, but ESPN saw him as a relevant voice in the national Seahawks coverage because he’d been on the team the previous year and knew all the players. He joined ESPN full-time in 2008.
“My weakness as a player was being over-analytical,” says Brock, a psychology major at UW. “You just want to forget that last play and move on, and I had a hard time doing that. But in this field of work, that’s exactly what I have to do; constantly be analyzing why that happened and how it’s going to affect what happens next. It was a natural fit.”
In the spring of 2009, ESPN named Brock to co-host a morning show on its new Seattle talk radio station. It was a big gamble for the media giant, as Brock had never hosted a radio show before. Veteran Mike Salk was tapped as Brock’s co-host to balance out the rookie’s inexperience. It was bumpy at first.
“I remember one show early on where I said something to Brock and he just nodded at me on the air,” says Salk. “I’m like, ‘Hey, if you’re just going to nod we can turn this thing off and forget about it.’ We didn’t have a lot in common at the beginning, but about a year in we went out to dinner and had the ‘Is this going to work or not?’ conversation. We talked about opening up on the air and not being afraid to share your opinion.”
As they leaned on each other to grow the “Brock and Salk Show” into what is now the most listened-to sports radio program in Seattle, the two became fast friends. “I never envisioned when I was playing that I would be doing this on a daily basis,” Brock says. “I just didn’t think I was a talk radio guy. Thankfully, I got the right partner who challenged me a lot.”
Salk left Seattle in 2013 for a radio show in Boston but returned to the Northwest in 2015 to reunite with Brock on 710 ESPN Seattle. “That was a huge reason I wanted to come back,” he says. “It took Brock awhile to get going, but he works just as hard at this as he did playing football. That’s rare for an ex-athlete and it’s one of the biggest reasons he’s so good at this.”
For Damon, success was equal parts hard work and perseverance. A natural leader on and off the field, he had plenty of ups and downs as the UW quarterback. High: he was a redshirt freshman on the Huskies’ 1991 national championship team. Low: Don James stepped down as head coach two weeks before his first career start. High: he guided Washington to the “Whammy in Miami,” a 38-20 victory that ended the Hurricanes’ NCAA-record 58-game home winning streak. Low: he also threw “The Pick,” the interception that Oregon’s Kenny Wheaton returned 97 yards for a touchdown in 1994 to ignite the Ducks’ rise to national prominence.
As a senior in 1995, Damon led the Huskies to a share of the Pac-10 title with a thrilling 33- 30 win over Washington State in the Apple Cup. Going out on top is something he’s incredibly proud of, and that resiliency paved the way for a gritty 12-year pro career. “All those things shape you as a young person and taught me how to survive in the NFL,” he says.
Before his NFL career took off, Damon was out of football for a year after he was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals. That was 1996, and Damon went to work for a Paul Allen subsidiary that was rallying support for a new Seahawks stadium. “When the Dolphins called [to see if he would sign on as a backup quarterback], I was torn,” recalls the UW business major. “Do I really try to do this football thing? Or do I stay here and be this young executive with the Seahawks?”
Working with the stadium group taught Damon he had a knack for connecting with people. Following his retirement from the NFL, UW administrators asked Damon to come on board as a major gifts officer for the Tyee Club, which supports the UW Athletic Department. “It was the best job I could have taken,” he says. “To be gone 12 years and to come back and reconnect with our alumni and donor base, it was so much fun to be a part of the campaign for this new stadium.”
Former UW coach Steve Sarkisian named Damon the football program’s chief administrative officer in 2013, and Chris Peterson has kept him on as director of external relations. It’s the perfect job for a Puyallup kid who always wanted to be a Husky. “I’m so thrilled to still be a part of Husky football and come full circle after all these years,” says Damon. “Helping our kids get internships and connecting them to the Husky family out there, I couldn’t ask for a better job.”
“Damon is one of the most likeable people I’ve ever met,” says Washington Athletic Director Jen Cohen. “He’s a great storyteller. He’s a great presenter. You feel like you’ve known him your whole life. It’s rare to find a job that fits the skill set of a person so well. Damon’s job is perfectly tailored to him because he’s that unique of a person.”
For the past few years, Damon has been working to launch a Woodinville winery called Passing Time. The idea goes back to his time with the Dolphins, when he was a backup to Hall-of- Fame quarterback Dan Marino. In 2015, Passing Time sold out its 2012 vintage (500 cases). The first-year release was named the top wine of 2015 by Great Northwest Wine Magazine and scored 94 points in The Wine Advocate.
Those points are a long way from touchdown passes in the NFL but no less exciting. “This all started with Dan Marino pouring these Washington wines at his house. He’d say, ‘Damon, they’re making some great wines where you’re from.’ The bug bit me, and I told Dan that when we were done playing, we’re going to make a Washington wine together,” says Damon, whose great-grandfather was one of the state’s first Concord grape growers in Eastern Washington.
Today, Brock and Damon are busy with work and family and don’t get to see each other too often. “We each have three kids and are being pulled in a hundred different directions,” Brock says. But they’re a close-knit family and no amount of hectic life will alter that.
Mike and Peg Huard are happy to have their sons nearby. They would have supported Brock and Damon no matter where they had decided to play college football, but they wanted each to understand the UW was more than just a school; it’s a community.
“This is your home, these are your people,” says Mike. “If you’re going to settle down in the Northwest, use that to get your foot in the door.”
“When sports stop, you’ve got to have something else,” says Peg, a retired schoolteacher and administrator. “We always encouraged them in sports and academics—everything they did.”
The quarterback position took Brock and Damon from Puyallup to the NFL and back again. Their passing legacy left a mark on UW football, but their passion for the Pacific Northwest has truly cemented their place in Husky history.
“Had I not stayed and gone to Washington and built some of the roots within the media here, would those doors have opened for me later on?” asks Brock. “Would Damon be doing what he’s doing with the team and the wine?
“What my dad said about staying in Seattle resonated with me back then, and I can say 20 years later that it was some really good counsel. We love it here.”