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 Monday, when Doornink was taken off a ventilator.
“He’s doing better,” Doornink’s son, Tyler, said in a message to The Times 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 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 with The Times. “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 all-time on the school’s 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.
He had a career-high 126 yards rushing in a playoff win over the Oakland Raiders in 1984, and he finished his Seahawks career with 1,836 yards rushing and 209 receptions.
Famously, 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.