DEBBIE ARMSTRONG – Snow Skiing
Debbie Armstrong is one of the most decorated skiers in United States history. She claimed the gold medal in the giant slalom at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympic Games in an upset for the first U.S. gold medal in 12 years. The Seattle Times ranked her achievement as Seattle’s “Top Sports Story of the Decade.”
Armstrong was a multi-sport athlete at Garfield High School in Seattle. She played varsity tennis and volleyball, was the most valuable player in soccer and played on the varsity basketball team that advanced to the state championships during her freshman year. She joined the U.S. Ski Team in 1991 and remained on the team through 1998, competing in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and winning world championships in 1981, ’85 and ’87. She was the U.S. junior national giant slalom champion in 1980 at Squaw Valley and the U.S. national champion in giant slalom at Copper Mountain in 1987. She had 18 top-10 finishes in her World Cup career.
Armstrong was inducted into the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Northwest Ski Hall of Fame in 1990. Chair 1 at Alpental and the run beneath it was renamed “Debbie’s Gold” in 1984, and the current high-speed quad is named “Armstrong Express.”
BYRON BECK – Basketball
Byron Beck came from a tiny town outside Ellensburg, but that was the only tiny thing about him. The 6-foot 9-inch forward-center graduated from Kittitas High School in 1963 and attended Columbia Basin College in Pasco and the University of Denver.
The National Basketball Association’s Chicago Bulls drafted Beck in the 1967 draft, but he chose to remain in Denver and play for the Denver Rockets of the rival American Basketball Association. He was the first player signed by the Rockets for their inaugural 1967-68 season, and he went on to become the first to have his uniform, No. 40, retired by the team.
Beck played 10 years with the Rockets, who were renamed the Nuggets in 1974, with the first nine in the ABA and the final year in the NBA after the leagues merged. He is one of only six players who participated in all nine seasons (1967-76) of the original ABA. In his 10-year career, Beck played in 747 games and totaled 8,603 points (11.5 per game) and 5,261 rebounds (7.0 per game). He was perhaps best known for a sweeping hook shot he said he learned from his mother.
DENNIS ERICKSON – Coach (Football)
A two-time national championship-winning NCAA football coach, Dennis Erickson grew up in Ferndale and Everett, where his father “Pinky” Erickson coached the Ferndale and Cascade High School football teams.
Erickson played quarterback at Everett High School and earned All-Big Sky honors at the position at Montana State. He earned his first collegiate head coaching job in 1982 at University of Idaho.
Erickson also spent time as head coach at Wyoming and Washington State before taking over at University of Miami in 1989. He stayed there six years, winning national titles in 1989 and 1991 (the second shared with Washington). His collegiate coaching career also included stints at Oregon State, Arizona State, another stop at Idaho, and an assistant coaching job at Utah. He spent six years in the National Football League, leading the Seattle Seahawks (1995-98) and San Francisco 49ers (2003-04).
Erickson compiled a 179-96-1 collegiate coaching record, including 12 bowl appearances, and added 40 wins as an NFL head coach. In 23 years as a collegiate head coach, he coached 10 consensus All-Americans and was twice named the Sporting News National Coach of the Year (1992, 2000), earned Big East Coach of the Year three times and was voted Pac-10 Coach of the Year three times.
MIKE HOLMGREN – Coach (Football)
When Mike Holmgren took over as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in 1999, he was already one of the most successful coaches in the league. He led the Seahawks to their first playoff berth in 10 years during his first season and claimed five division titles, the 2005 NFC Championship and the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl appearance.
In 10 years as Seahawks coach, Holmgren compiled an 86-74 record, the most wins of any coach in franchise history. But as successful as he was in Seattle, his seven-year stint in Green Bay saw even greater success. Holmgren led the Packers to two Super Bowl appearances, including a victory in Super Bowl XXXI, to go with a 75-37 regular season record and a 9-5 postseason record.
Prior to his two head coaching jobs, Holmgren helped shape the offense of the San Francisco 49ers dynasty of the 1980s and ‘90s. He coached Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young (to go with Hall of Famer Brett Favre in Green Bay) as quarterback’s coach from 1986-88 and offensive coordinator from 1989-91. During his tenure with San Francisco, the 49ers won Super Bowls XXIII and XXIV.
KASEY KELLER – Soccer
One of the most successful soccer players in United States history, Kasey Keller began and ended his playing career in the Pacific Northwest. Born in Olympia, he attended North Thurston High School and University of Portland, where he helped lead the team to the NCAA semifinals as a freshman and was named Adidas Goalkeeper of the Year as a senior in 1991.
Nearly 20 years later, Keller returned to the Puget Sound region to join the expansion Major League Soccer Seattle Sounders Football Club in 2009. He closed out his playing career in 2011, earning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors.
Between those two points, Keller attained international success playing on four World Cup teams and spending time in the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga. Keller’s English teams included Millwall (1992-96), Leicester City (1996-99), Tottenham (2001-05) and Fulham (2007-08). He was named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year in 1997, 1999 and 2005, and he has the second-most caps (102) and wins (53) of any men’s goalkeeper in U.S. Soccer history, and his 47 clean sheets are still an all-time record. He was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2015.
JOE STEELE – Football
Considered one of the greatest running backs in Washington state history, Joe Steele was a 6-foot-4-inch workhorse back who set records at both Seattle’s Bishop Blanchet High School and the University of Washington
Steele’s prep career featured 3,814 yards and 44 touchdowns to go with a 26-game win streak that covered his three seasons and included the 1974 state championship. In the 1975 Metro League Championship game against Garfield, Steele ran for 140 yards on 36 carries with two rushing touchdowns, caught another and passed for the game-winning touchdown in the fourth overtime period. That game was later recognized as the game of the last century for high school in the state of Washington, and that year he was selected to the Parade All-America team.
Steele went on to rewrite the record book at University of Washington. In 1978, he broke a 28-year-old record with 1,111 yards to set the single-season standard, which lasted until 1990. In 1979, he became UW’s all-time leading rusher with 3,168 yards, a record he held until 1994. He earned honorable mention All-America honors to go with All-Coast and All-Conference recognition.
Steele was inducted into the UW Husky Hall of Fame in 1996 and the WIAA Hall of Fame in 2010.
CURT WARNER – Football
Curt Warner came to Seattle in 1983 as the Seahawks’ top pick in the draft that year, No. 3 overall. He led the AFC with 1,449 rushing yards during his rookie season, scoring 13 touchdowns and helping lead the Seahawks to their first conference championship appearance. He was named AFC Offensive Player of the Year and received second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.
Warner went on to earn two more Pro Bowl nods (1986, ’87), earning second-team All-Pro recognition in 1986 and first-team honors in 1987. He played seven years with the Seahawks before closing out his career with the Los Angeles Rams in 1990. For his career, he totaled 6,844 rushing yards with 56 touchdowns to go with 1,467 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
Prior to his NFL career, Warner was a two-time All-American at Penn State and led the Nittany Lions to the 1982 national championship. He left Penn State holding 42 program records and with a career total of more than 4,000 total yards (3,398 rushing and 662 receiving) and 30 total touchdowns.
Warner was inducted into the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor in 1994 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009. He has coached high school football in Camas and is president of the Curt Warner Autism Foundation.
GARY WRIGHT – Administrator (Football)
One of the original employees of the Seattle Seahawks, Gary Wright spent 32 years with the football team before retiring as Vice President of Administration in 2008. He was so respected that the press box at CenturyLink Field was named the Gary Wright Press Box in his honor.
His retirement did not last long, as he joined the expansion Seattle Sounders Football Club as Vice President of Business Operations shortly after leaving the Seahawks. His success in leading the franchise garnered the Major League Soccer Business Executive of the Year honor in 2009 and Seattle Sports Executive of the Year honors in 2012.
Wright grew up in Los Angeles near the old Pepperdine campus. He spent time as the sports information director at Pepperdine and Long Beach State and also served as publicity director for the Southern California Sun of the World Football League (along with serving as league publicity director). His background also includes coaching high school football and basketball and serving as Vice President of Operations for the Phoenix Racquets of World Team Tennis.