DAY 1: 522 miles, South Sound to Meridian, Idaho.
I don’t think anybody calls Interstate 82 “Washington’s NFL Expressway,” but I wondered if maybe they should as I drove it on the first day of my road trip to Super Bowl XLIX.
I-82 is almost 144 miles stretching from Ellensburg, birthplace of former New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, to Umatilla, Oregon. The road passes through Prosser, where Detroit Lions reserve quarterback Kellen Moore was born and raised.
It passes the Tri-Cities, who gave the NFL former Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher, former Seahawks linebacker Michael Jackson and former Raiders defensive end Taylor Brayton.
The Yakima area, too, produced more than a handful of NFL players, and I had an appointment with one of them.
Dr. Dan Doornink, who grew up in nearby Wapato, greeted me in the lobby of Yakima’s Cornerstone Medical Clinic at 7:45 a.m., and we spent about 25 minutes talking about Seahawks both past and present.
Doornink, a Seahawks running back from 1979-85, was one of the team’s first playoff heroes. He recovered a key fumble in a win over Miami in the 1983 playoffs. He has the picture of the play on his phone.
In 1984 he rushed 29 times for 126 yards as the Seahawks beat the Raiders 13-7 in the wild-card round.
He is a fan of the current team and is impressed by players such as Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the defense. “They are so unbelievable,” Doornink said. “I mean, you look back at that game against the Packers and you wonder how can you be in that game with all those turnovers? It’s just hard to fathom.”
Doornink was drafted by the New York Giants, and he remembers vividly new coach Ray Perkins’ “assistant to the assistant to the assistant,” the “go-get-the-pen guy.”
“He was kind of an awkward guy who is the guy who came in and did the bed checks and things, and he was kind of a gopher guy,” Doornink said, “and his name was Bill Belichick.”
Doornink, who attended medical school through most of his NFL career, recognized the guy was quite smart, but never imagined he would one day coach the New England Patriots to six Super Bowls.
“Just kind of the most awkward dude you could imagine,” said Doornink. Belichick’s personality stuck out so much, it was sometimes a conversation topic among players.
“He’s the same way now in his press conferences. It’s the same Bill Belichick.”