June 6, 2016
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
On Jan. 31, 1968, two years after the first Super Bowl, Dave Weedman, a defensive end and at Western Washington State College (now Western Washington University) became the first and only Viking football player selected in the National Football League (NFL) draft, held that year at the Belmont Plaza Hotel in New York City.
Weedman was picked in the 12th round by the Washington Redskins, being the 311th selection overall. In all, there were 17 rounds and 462 selections.
"I got a telephone call from the Redskins wishing me congratulations and wanting me to come back there," said Weedman, now 73, in a recent interview while recovering from triple-bypass heart surgery at his home in Camas, Wash. He signed a contract for $23,000.
Professional football was much different in those days, ranking behind major league baseball nationally in popularity. Each team had a 40-man roster, plus seven taxi squad players. The east coast teams had a minor league working agreement with the Atlantic Coast Football League (ACFL). Washington's affiliate was the Virginia Sailors.
Weedman, listed at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, was a member of Washington's taxi squad in 1968.
"I went to practice every day with the Redskins, and at night I practiced with Virginia," Weedman recalled. "We played on Saturdays and our gear was mostly hand-me-downs."
"When I got back to Washington D.C. that first year, it was incredibly hot and I couldn't keep the weight on. That's why I ended up at linebacker because I had good speed (4.5 40-yard dash)."
During his three years as a professional, Weedman played in 12 NFL exhibition contests, four prior to each season. Some were nationally televised and family and friends from the northwest got to watch him play.
"My first game with the Redskins was at the Houston Astrodome, which at that time was nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World," recalled Weedman. "I was out there for the opening kickoff as a member of the return team and just looked around, saying, `What is going on here.'"
A personal highlight for Weedman that year was intercepting a pass in an ACFL game and returning it 98 yards for a touchdown.
The following season, Washington hired the legendary Vince Lombardi as its head coach and executive vice president.
Weedman was penciled in as the Redskins' fifth linebacker for the upcoming campaign. But that all changed when All-Pro linebacker Sam Huff came out of retirement specifically to play for Lombardi. Huff was named to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1982.
"He (Lombardi) was kind of intimidating, but his reputation now is much bigger then it was at that time," Weedman said. "My only face-to-face meeting with him was when I was cut. He wished me well. He was hard-nosed to the core, but I remember the practices being way easier than at Western."
Weedman was picked up off waivers by the Detroit Lions and played for the Tri-City Apollos in 1969.
The next season he got a call from the Philadelphia Eagles and played for the Pottstown Firebirds which won the ACFL championship, beating the Hartford Knights (Green Bay Packers), 31-0, in a blinding snowstorm.
That proved to be the end of Weedman's professional career.
"Going through that NFL experience was awesome," said Weedman. "I probably was not prepared mentally, physically yes, but I felt that I would have done better if I'd been more mature and self-confident."
"Maybe if I'd been at a bigger school at the time I would have known more of what I needed to, all the different assignments for the different formations. At Western, I only had a couple of rules to follow. These things were familiar to the other players (in the professional ranks), but not to me. So, I felt players from the bigger schools had an advantage over those from smaller schools."
Weedman was born in Longview, Wash., and while in the sixth grade moved 22 miles south to Woodland. He was a three-sport (football, basketball and track), four-year letter winner at Woodland High School, having a major growth spurt as a junior.
Weedman got a full-ride scholarship to Oregon State University, coached by Tommy Prothro, and played the 1961 season on the Beaver frosh team.
"I went down there basically to play football, joined a fraternity and wasn't into academics at the time," he explained.
Weedman went home and worked at a sawmill where he was seriously injured when his leg was caught between two logs. His right knee sustained 15 percent disability in the accident.
In 1962, Weedman attended Lower Columbia College in Longview after being recruited by a former high school coach who was on the LCC staff. But during the first series of the opening game at Wenatchee Valley CC, he sustained a season-ending knee injury while covering on a punt.
Weedman completed his Associate of Arts degree at LCC and decided to go to Western "because my mother had gone to Central Washington where she had gotten to know a guy by the name of Jim Lounsberry." Lounsberry was Western's head coach for six seasons after holding the same position at Whitworth College.
"Those were three of the best years of my life," Weedman reflected. "I still stay in touch with some of my teammates. That's a big deal."
White at Western, Weedman had a work-study position through the athletics department at the SAGA Food Service.
"I have very fond memories of SAGA," said Weedman. "They kept me full. The first year, I cleaned the bakery part of kitchen. Then I was a ticket puncher. I'm sure they lost their shirts the year I did that. Then they put me out in the dining room, where I ate and watched for any sneak-ins, who I was supposed to make leave. I don't recall ever making anyone leave."
As a senior, Weedman was a second-team NAIA All-American, Associated Press Little All-America honorable mention, second-team United Press International All-Coast, Little All-Northwest and a NAIA District 1 all-star for the second straight year and All-Evergreen Conference for the third consecutive season. He was named Western's Athlete of the Year for 1967-68, and earned a bachelor's degree in physical education and health.
That last year at Western, Weedman had particularly good games against arch-rival Central Washington and a near upset of nationally No.6-ranked and eventual NAIA national runner-up Eastern Washington.
"I'm guessing that the coaches of those two teams (Central -- Tom Parry, Eastern -- Dave Holmes) may have had something to do (with my getting drafted)," said Weedman.
Following his professional football career, Weedman taught and coached for two years at Kelso High School. He then got involved in the landscaping and nursery business before going into real estate where he was a recent Outstanding Professional Award winner. His licensed assistant is his wife Leona.
Over the years, Weedman had his right knee replaced as well as both shoulders and had his back worked on.
"Football might have had something to do with it, but there also was the logging accident and a lot of manual work during my days in landscaping," Weedman explained.
However, athletics played a major role for him in many positive ways.
"My life early on was never planned, it just kind of happened," Weedman said. "I never felt that I would go to college, that wasn't even in the conversation (for my family), as we didn't have the money. But I got that full ride (scholarship) to Oregon State, which was a surprise."
"After working in the forest, I knew that I didn't want to do that forever. So, I got my AA degree and went to Western. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. But football was the motivator."
By Paul Madison who served 48 years as sports information director at WWU from 1966 to 2015