For Mr. Athletic, being a Coug is destiny

TACOMA -- David Pritchard, the center on Washington State's 1981 Holiday Bowl team, couldn't contain his enthusiasm Wednesday. "I finally have a Cougar player," he gushed after his son Tana signed a national letter of intent to play ball at WSU. "It's fun to have a son who is going to be playing in the same place and going through the same tunnel, wearing crimson and gray."

Back in 2005, the elder Pritchard thought Tana's brother, quarterback Tavita, was going to be a Cougar too. But when Arkelon Hall jumped on an early WSU offer, Tavita took a detour to Stanford.

There will be no detours for Tana. "I grew up a Coug," he said. "Any little kid who grows up watching a team wants to play for them, and when they offered me, it was a dream come true.

"I didn't take long to decide once they offered," said Pritchard, who was a starting quarterback at Clover Park High for four years, but has the skills to play just about anywhere.

"He's a great athlete and he can do a lot of things and I think the biggest challenge that the Cougar coaching staff will face is where he plays – offense or defense," said legendary Cougar Jack Thompson, who qualifies as Pritchard's uncle but is technically a cousin. "He can play on both sides. He's very gifted, and I'm sure Coach Bone will want to have a few words with him, too."

Indeed. There are but two stars next to Pritchard's name in the recruiting database, but when it comes to athleticism, he takes a backseat to no one. All-state punter. All-area quarterback. All-league safety. And leading scorer – at 22 points a game – for the No. 2-ranked Class 2A team in the state.

In interviews Wednesday, Cougar head coach Paul Wulff and recruiting coordinator Rich Rasmussen were firing up a variety of possibilities for Pritchard when asked where he fits.

Linebacker, safety, tight end, H-back. You name it.

Along with ace recruiter.

Turns out Pritchard was a guiding light in recent days in helping standout corner/receiver Rahmel Dockery of Tacoma's Curtis High opt for WSU over Oregon State.

BACK IN SEPTEMBER, when Cougar assistant coach Mike Levenseller called to extend Pritchard a scholarship, no sooner had the 6-4, 204-pounder hung up the phone than his father started singing the Cougar fight song.

"It was hilarious," said the reigning South Puget Sound League 2A Offensive MVP. "My whole family is excited."

That includes seven siblings, including sister Jordan, who is a junior at WSU.

Pritchard's anticipation for college has only grown since the fall. He took his official visit to Pullman over the weekend, and seeing the Cougar men's basketball team knock off No. 18 Washington 87-80 made the trip that much sweeter.

"Who wouldn't want to go here after seeing that game?" he said. "We were in the second row; it was so close. Oh my word, what a great time."

Pritchard received a scholarship offer from UNLV when he was sophomore and also was getting interest this fall from Stanford, Oregon State, Washington and Air Force.

"Washington State was definitely somewhere I wanted to go my entire life," said Pritchard, who passed for 1,620 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2010. "There are not too many other places I'd have gone over WSU."

Having their son less than five hours away should make things easier on the Pritchards, who on many a Friday evening would load up their 12-passenger van and hit the road for Palo Alto to see Tavita play the next afternoon.

It is that kind of familial support that Pritchard credits for his success.

"(My parents) really pushed us to be the best we can be and that really rubbed off from a young age and we were prepared to be in a position to have these opportunities," he said.

He also looks to his brother as a mentor, saying that Tavita gave him someone to look up to "and to know how hard I needed to work."

As a Running Start student, Pritchard will not only graduate from Clover Park in June, but also complete his associate's degree. As a result, he can declare a major as a freshman, and has his eye on engineering. The interest was borne of a former basketball coach who was an engineer, "and when he would talk about it, I saw how passionate he was ... and I know WSU has a great engineering program."

And while he will miss playing basketball, he said that he looks forward to focusing on one sport.

"It will be fun to see how my body reacts to only playing football, being on an only-football diet, having a football body and playing all year."

And he's even more excited about the direction in which the team is headed.

He believes Wulff is "turning this program in a new direction. Their work ethic, wisdom and even the brotherhood of the team is changing every day.

"I'm really excited to help change this program around," he said. "I know that Pullman is great in supporting its football team."

As for the possible transition to linebacker – one of the few positions he didn't play in high school – there is perhaps no better barometer of his future than this. This past fall, Clover Park football coach Jon Randall decided to bar Pritchard, a strong safety, from contact drills because too many of his teammates were getting injured.


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