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Sports >  WSU football

Former Seahawks, WSU standout Dan Doornink ‘beating the odds’ in critical battle with COVID-19

Aug. 31, 2021 Updated Tue., Aug. 31, 2021 at 7:31 p.m.

Former Washington State running back Dan Doornink (left) eludes Michigan State player Larry Bethea during a football game in 1977. Doornink is currently in a Yakima hospital battling COVID-19.  (Cowles Publishing Achives)
Former Washington State running back Dan Doornink (left) eludes Michigan State player Larry Bethea during a football game in 1977. Doornink is currently in a Yakima hospital battling COVID-19. (Cowles Publishing Achives)
By Adam Jude Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Dan Doornink, a standout running back at Washington State in the 1970s and a fan favorite with the Seahawks in the ’80s, has turned a corner in his critical fight against COVID-19 at a Yakima hospital.

Doornink’s wife Sharon posted about her husband’s condition on Facebook last week, noting he was in the ICU and asking for prayers for him.

A longtime family doctor in Yakima, the 65-year-old Doornink – Dr. Dan to those who know him – was vaccinated against COVID, according to his family. But he has an autoimmune blood disorder that complicated his reaction to the virus, his wife said.

There were encouraging signs on Monday, when Doornink was taken off a ventilator.

“He’s doing better,” Doornink’s son Tyler said in a message late Monday, “… and has made some big improvements thanks to God answering all the prayers of everyone, though he still has an extremely difficult road ahead. We would be grateful for continued prayer! My mom and our whole family are so thankful for everyone’s prayers and encouraging words.”

Former teammate Steve Raible, the Seahawks’ broadcaster, tweeted Monday night: “From the ‘prayers really do work’ file.. our buddy Dr Dan is doing what he’s always done- beating the odds!”

A Wapato, Washington, native, Doornink went to WSU as a quarterback in 1974 but ended up starting at running back as a 6-foot-3, 210-pound freshman.

“So I got in there and ran over the first-team cornerback, a senior cornerback, and I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to do that,” Doornink said in a 2018 interview . “A couple weeks later, I was starting. In those days, it was unheard of to have freshmen start.”

He finished his playing career at WSU in 1977 ranked second on the school’s all-time rushing list with 1,739 yards and first in receptions for a running back with 105. His pass-catching skills translated well to the NFL, where he played for eight seasons – the final seven with the Seahawks, mostly as the third-down back.

Doornink attended medical school at UW while playing for the Seahawks. He would go to classes at UW at 8 a.m., practice with the Seahawks in the afternoon, and then study medical texts late into the night.

“It was hard and challenging, and I didn’t get much sleep those years,” he recalled in 2018.

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