It’s known as the “Whammy in Miami.” It’s one of the greatest victories in University of Washington football history. And Richie Chambers played as big a role in it as anyone.
The University of Miami was riding a 58-game home winning streak, a stretch that spanned nine years and was the longest in NCAA history. But on Sept. 24, 1994, the Huskies went into the Orange Bowl and pulled off one of the most memorable wins in school history, blitzing the Hurricanes in the second half en route to a 38-20 triumph.
And Chambers was right in the middle of the maelstrom. The Lake Stevens native, then a senior linebacker, had one of the best games of his collegiate career, forcing a fumble on a sack and intercepting a pass to play a crucial role in the Huskies’ upset bid.
It was the pinnacle of a tremendous athletic career that’s now reached another milestone, as Chambers is part of the 2018 Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame class that’s being inducted Wednesday night at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Angel of the Winds Arena.
“It’s a true honor for sure,” Chambers said about being inducted into the Hall of Fame. “You kind of progress through life and try to do the best you can in all facets of life, and in sports it’s an honor to be recognized as one of the very best in the area. I’m humbled.”
Chambers, a 1990 graduate of Lake Stevens High School, was a three-sport star during his years with the Vikings. He won both individual (190 pounds) and team state titles in wrestling as a junior, then claimed track and field state titles in the 110-meter and 300 hurdles as a senior. He was named The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Year in both 1989 and 1990.
But Chambers’ primary sport was always football. He came from a football family as his father, Richard, was a football player who played defensive end during his playing days. Chambers got started in football in the Lake Stevens youth system when he was 6 or 7 and was an immediate standout. That excellence extended into high school, where he was an All-Wesco performer on both offense at running back and defense at linebacker. His efforts earned him a football scholarship to Washington.
At Washington he played on the 1991 team that went undefeated and shared the national championship with Miami. Chambers, as a freshman, saw time in the Rose Bowl victory over Michigan, though he suffered a broken arm while trying to tackle Wolverines star Desmond Howard on special teams.
Chambers eased into the starting lineup at weak-side linebacker as a junior, then started the whole season as a senior. His senior year he finished with 73 tackles and 9.5 sacks, earning honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors.
“I never saw the guy rattled,” said David Kilpatrick, Chambers’ teammate and roommate at UW. “Being a middle linebacker I had a vantage point where I could look at all 10 guys’ faces and see if anyone was tired, or if they had big eyes because the moment was too big. But Richie was just unflappable. He was never rattled in any situation. It didn’t matter if it was Miami at Miami or Ohio State, he was always dialed in on the moment.”
Never was Chambers more dialed in than during Washington’s highest-profile games in 1994. First, he had 14 tackles and two forced fumbles in the Huskies’ 25-16 victory over Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State at Husky Stadium. One week later was the “Whammy in Miami,” in which Chambers helped the Huskies overcome a 14-3 halftime deficit and outscore the Hurricanes 35-6 in the second half.
“It was something we were motivated and prepared to do, mostly to claim the soul of the 1991 championship that we should have had to ourselves,” Chambers said about the victory over the Hurricanes. “It was fun to go in there and play that game. That was my first time to Florida and I didn’t understand how hot and humid it would be, but once we started playing and got into the excitement of the game you quickly forgot about that.
“We didn’t have an inspirational speech at halftime or anything, we just made the adjustments we needed to make,” Chambers added. “For me what probably sparked the comeback was the long screen pass to Richard Thomas (which went for a 75-yard touchdown early in the second half). That got us going, we played into the momentum and never relinquished it.”
After college Chambers attempted to play football professionally, going to training camp with the CFL’s short-lived San Antonio Texans. However, during camp he decided that, given the nagging injuries he accrued through his football career, it wasn’t worth the risk to his long-term health. So he decided to hang up his cleats, and he has few regrets. He now lives in the Snohomish area, works in account management for a tech firm and coaches outside linebackers for the Inglemoor High School football team.
“I feel real good (about my athletic career),” Chambers said. “One of the things you always wonder about is how much more you could have done. But I’m super proud of the things I accomplished. I was a part of Lake Stevens’ first state championship team with the wrestling program, I won a national championship with the UW. It was fun to be part of winning traditions.”
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