The Number Ones

SINCE THE INITIAL professional football draft was conducted in 1936, 11 Washington State greats have been honored as first-round NFL selections. But never have two Crimson Soldiers shared that elite spotlight on the same day.

That could change on April 26 when NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue fires the starting pistol on the league's annual draft. For if analysts, pundits, and arm-chair general managers are correct, Cougar defensive mates Rien Long and Marcus Trufant may hear their name called among the top thirty-two selections.


Trufant is generally listed as the No. 2 cornerback available in the draft and is thought to be a certain early to mid first-round selection. Long, the Outland Trophy winner, has seen his stock fall among some draft gurus, but is still thought to be a late first-rounder in many draft circles.


Should Trufant and Long make Cougar history by being chosen in the first-round, this distinction won't be without asterisks.


With the selection of Cougar quarterback Timm Rosenbach in the 1989 NFL supplemental draft, Phoenix forfeited its top pick in 1990, technically making Rosey a first round 1990 pick. That would put him in the company of his Aloha Bowl teammate, running back Steve Broussard, who became the 20th pick overall in that draft when Atlanta called his name.


And back in 1984 a pair of Crimson defensive lineman shared the first round spotlight, albeit in the upstart (and short-lived) USFL. Keith Millard was selected as the fifth pick overall by the Arizona Wranglers, while Eric Williams was chosen by the New Jersey Generals later that opening round.


Millard didn't have to wait long for the phone call on NFL draft day either. The Minnesota Vikings used their first pick, the 13th overall, to draft the future NFL defensive player of the year, making him the only Cougar ever to be drafted in the first round by two professional football leagues.


Another WSU defensive lineman, Rob Meier, was the very first player chosen in the 1999 CFL draft. The Vancouver, B.C. native was still a junior when his hometown Lions attempted to lure him north. Meier was flattered, but chose to return for his senior season on the Palouse before pursuing a professional football career stateside.


Fittingly for a school dubbed "Quarterback U," five of the 11 Cougs chosen in the first round of the NFL draft were, in fact, quarterbacks. In addition to Rosenbach, Crimson signal-callers Ed Goddard, Jack Thompson, Drew Bledsoe, and Ryan Leaf were also round one selections.


Goddard, the only three-peat All-American in Cougar history, was chosen by the Brooklyn Dodgers with the second pick of the 1937 draft, four spots ahead of legendary QB, Slingin' Sammy Baugh. Goddard would leave the gridiron after only two seasons to pursue a professional baseball career.


Leaf also was chosen with the second pick overall. The San Diego Chargers and the Montana native seemed to be a match made in heaven on draft day 1998. The honeymoon proved to be a short one, however, as meltdowns both on and off the field prematurely ended Leaf's stay at San Diego and, soon thereafter, in the big leagues.


The Cincinnati Bengals selected Thompson as their QB of the future with the third overall pick in 1979. Unfortunately, the shelf life of Cincy signal caller Ken Anderson proved to be a great deal longer then expected. The "Throwin' Samoan" toiled at football wastelands Cincinnati and Tampa Bay before hanging up the clipboard following the 1984 season.


Bledsoe - - the most successful Cougar first-rounder ever - - was selected by the New England Patriots with the top pick in the 1993 draft. The Walla Walla native continues his reign as one of the premiere NFL passers, having just completed his first season with the Buffalo Bills - - and earning his fourth trip to the Pro Bowl - - following 9 years with the Pats.


Seventeen years separated Goddard's selection and the next Cougar first round pick. The Los Angeles Rams made end Ed Barker the 12th pick of the 1953 draft, then almost immediately traded him to Pittsburgh. After two productive seasons in the Bigs - - with the Steelers and Washington Redskins - - Barker packed his cleats away for good.

Washington State would go through two more first-round droughts during the 25 years following Barker's selection. Back Clancy Williams ended the first drought when the Los Angeles Rams selected him with the 9th pick of the 1965 draft. Thirteen years later, in 1978, the St. Louis Cardinals with the 19th choice of the 1978 draft chose defensive back Ken Greene. He currently serves with Rosenbach on Bill Doba's coaching staff at WSU.

Doba played a huge role in the development of the Cougar's only linebacker to be taken in the first round of a professional draft, serving as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach during Mark Fields career at Wazzu. Fields, drafted by New Orleans, was the 13th selection of the 1995 draft.

And like Fields, the Doba imprint has most definitely been left on the two Cougar defenders in the NFL draft spotlight this month. Indeed, should Trufant and Long become historical footnotes to Cougar professional draft annals on April 26, Coach Doba could be credited as the author.

Editor's note: Our crack team of researchers was unable to locate complete listings of the drafts conducted by the All-American Football Conference in 1947,48, and 49. Additionally, records from earlier CFL drafts are sketchy.

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