4 Cougar seniors reflect as careers wind down

PULLMAN -- All the spring practices, summer practices, fall practices, weight lifting, video sessions, position meetings, road trips, wins and losses -- and yes, there were far too many of the latter – come to a conclusion Saturday for the 20 seniors on the Washington State football team. Few, if any, will ever play football again.

It's a harsh reality of life for a group that has witnessed first-hand most or all of WSU's 38 losses since 2007 -- the most in any four-year period in school history.

Only 11 players remain from the team inherited by Paul Wulff when he replaced Bill Doba as coach after the 2007 season. Most of the seniors play reserve roles behind younger, better athletes.

Four of the Doba-era survivors, speaking from different perspectives, recently reminisced about their college careers. The group consisted of a defensive starter (end Kevin Kooyman from Tahoma High School in Covington), an offensive starter (tackle Micah Hannam from Peninsula High in Gig Harbor), a career backup (walk-on center-guard Chris Prummer from Liberty High in Issaquah) and a special teams standout (punter Reid Forrest from Ephrata High). All four graduate in December.

Cougfan: What is your favorite memory as a Cougar?

Hannam: Apple Cup 2007, the one we won there. I remember I was pass blocking, and I just kinda threw the guy to the side, and I saw the ball out of the corner of my eye go up (an Alex Brink pass), and I just saw Brandon Gibson wide open, grabbing the ball and going for the touchdown for the win. I'll never forget that.

Kooyman: Just everybody on campus. Not only football players, but the friends I've met throughout my college experience. But football-wise, it would definitely have to be my freshman year (2006) when we beat Oregon here.

Prummer The (2007) Apple Cup win in Seattle. I mean, you can't get any better than that. Growing up, my whole family, they're Husky fans. When it came time to go off to school, I thought about going there, because their med school is very, very good. A couple of my friends went there and gave me a bunch of crap, so it's fantastic to beat them.

Forrest: When I was a redshirt freshman, we were playing USC. I was sitting on the sidelines toward the end of the game with Zach Enyeart, and I said, "Hey, man. Just look around at what we're doing right now. We're playing Division I football. It doesn't get much better than this." And when we were sitting in Corvallis (two weeks ago during the Nov. 13 win over Oregon State), I said, "Remember when we were sitting at USC? It's been a long road." But we've had a good time. I'd say my favorite memory is just making all the friends I have rather than any specific memory.

Cougfan: What is your most painful memory?

Kooyman: Last year, the Apple Cup at U-Dub. Since I was injured, I didn't play at all last year (after the season opener), but getting shut out at their place was just heartbreaking.

Hannam: The losses of the 2008 season. I mean, there was USC (69-0), there was Stanford (58-0). It was pretty demoralizing to just get crushed by those teams.

Forrest: The Cougars have always been my favorite team, so the years we've lost the Apple Cup would probably be the worst memory because I just can't STAND losing to the Huskies.

Prummer: I never got to go to a bowl game … never going, that's a real bummer.

Cougfan: What changes have you seen in the program since the change of coaching staffs?

Prummer: A good change has been getting people -- how do I describe it? -- more focused on what they're doing. Keeping people out of trouble within the community, I think, is a big deal. We have a reputation to try to uphold out there. I think our current staff is doing a better job of getting people that take care of their business off the field, and that correlates to doing well on the field. Coach Lovat (head strength coach Darin Lovat) does a great job of building a lot of discipline.

Hannam: This staff wanted us to be more involved in the community, so we've been doing more stuff like trash pick-ups, walk around town passing out posters. When there's the (Lentil Festival) parade, get out there and let the people see us.

Forrest: Just the atmosphere of communication with the coaching staff … I'll go around town, you see the coaches everywhere. You know them, you know their kids, you know their wives. It's just a great family atmosphere.

Kooyman: Doba and Wulff definitely have different styles of coaching. You've just got to take what the coaches give you. I don't know. It's kind of hard to say. I don't really want to say anything. I'll leave that as "No comment."

Cougfan: How would you describe your overall experience at WSU?

Forrest: I wouldn't trade it for anything. I got a little taste of winning my redshirt year (2006). Then my redshirt freshman year, I had a great time with those guys when we were winning some games. But I've learned more about myself as a person the following three seasons where we haven't been as successful. Just how to be a good person and how to do things right, because it's hard when you're not winning to do those little things right.

Prummer: Especially the last two years, they've been tough. But you look back, it's had its really fun moments. They're getting this thing going in the right direction again … hopefully, we helped bring that about.

Hannam: A big part of it is just battling through adversity, because I'm going to face it again in my life, and I've faced a lot of it here. I've been there, done that. I know how to handle it.

Kooyman: I feel like you learn more as a person when you lose games like this and go through struggles. The last three seasons, it just makes you become a better person and understand that hard work does pay off in the end.

BESIDES KOOYMAN, HANNAM, Forrest and Prummer, 16 other Cougar seniors will be saying farewell to Martin Stadium and the Cougar Nation this Saturday: Myron Beck, Daniel Blackledge, Zach Enyeart, Aaron Gehring, Nico Grasu, Casey Hamlett, Halston Higgins, Anthony Houston, James Montgomery (though he might try for a medical redshirt 6th season), Chima Nwachukwu, Marcus Richmond, Jeffrey Solomon, Chantz Staden, Zach Tatman, Zack Williams and Bernard Wolfgramm.

A note on advertising: If you're wondering why Mkristo Bruce's photo is included in this story, take a read of the fine print surrounding it. Mkristo has hung up his cleats and is now in sales with Stadium Nissan of Seattle. For every car Mkristo sells to a fellow Cougar, he'll make a donation to WSU Athletics. So support those who are supporting CF.C and WSU. Give Mkristo a call today. Tell him CF.C sent ya.

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