By Dennis J. Freeman
Pasadena, CA-George Fleming says he used to dream about playing in the Rose Bowl. As a youngster, Fleming would watch the Rose Bowl on television, hoping one day he would get an opportunity to showcase his talents in the prestigious college football game. When he got his chance, Fleming made the most of it, capturing the hearts of the nation with two riveting performances as a utility player for the University of Washington.
And he did it by playing as many as five positions on the field, running circles around his opponents and impressing his coaches and teammates. In the first Rose Bowl game in which he appeared in, Fleming didn’t let the big stage intimidate him. Nor did he let anything else get in the way of him performing in his first Rose Bowl appearance. After injuring himself during practice leading up to the 1960 Rose Bowl, Fleming dared his coach not to play him.
It’s a good thing his coached listened and allowed him to play. Not only did Fleming play, he dominated the game. Fleming dazzled while playing running back, defensive safety, kick returner, punt returner and kicker to lead Washington to a 44-8 victory against Wisconsin. Fleming did pretty much everything in his power to lead Washington to the one-sided win except sell hot dogs and put some burgers on the grill.
“My mentality was, ‘Am I going to be ready to play?’” Fleming said. “That was number one on my mind. Here is this dream of mine. ‘Is it going to float away with me sitting on the bench? It would still be a great accomplishment, but what could I do sitting on the bench to make it a better situation?’”
Fleming was spectacular. He scored a touchdown, kicked a field goal, added on five extra points and set up two more scores. He was named as the 1960 Rose Bowl co-MVP. Fleming wasn’t finished with his Rose Bowl dominance. He came back the following year to lead Washington to a 17-7 win against Minnesota in the 1961 Rose Bowl.
Fleming’s imprint in that contest was felt early as he nailed a 44-yard field goal to score the game’s first points. Not bad for a guy who had originally set his eyes on attending UCLA after leaving East Los Angeles Junior College. The Bruins’ loss was definitely Washington’s gained. The Rose Bowl also gained a new star it could salute in the future. And that future is now.
Because of his electrifying performances in those two games, Fleming, who later played in the NFL for several years, and became a member of Washington State’s House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate, will forever be linked to Rose Bowl history.
Fleming, along with legendary sports broadcaster Dick Enberg and former Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne, was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame as part of the 2011 class enshrinement. All three men were honored in a formal ceremony, which included introductions by announcer Brent Musburger and Barry Alvarez at the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, California. Being inducted in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame is pretty special, Fleming said.
“It means everything in the world,” Fleming told News4usonline.com. “It’s a great honor. It is a dream that I had. It was the Granddaddy of Them All. It was on the big stage. Having that game the way that I did…that had a lot to do with me being honored. It also did me well in the draft, in the pros because I had it on the big screen. Having a game like that…that was sort of a personification.”