Legendary Posse secondary still loves game

NEARLY TWO decades after they rode together as the hard-nosed, über-confident secondary of the greatest defense in Washington State history, the cornerbacks and safeties of the Palouse Posse are still ridin' tall. While they turned in a combined 30 seasons playing in the NFL and CFL, what binds them now is their coaching expertise.

And what a record they've compiled.

Torey Hunter collected an FCS national championship ring while at Eastern Washington in 2010. Greg Burns was an assistant at USC when the Trojans won national titles in 2003 and 2004. And John Rushing secured the Mother of All Championship Rings in 2010 as a member of the Super Bowl-winning Green Bay Packers' staff.

Between them, the three have 41 seasons of coaching under their belts. Rushing is entering his fourth year as an assistant with Green Bay following a dozen years in the college ranks, while Burns is entering his first year at Purdue after four with Dennis Erickson at Arizona State, and Hunter is going into his second season at Idaho following the title run at EWU.


Singor Mobley and Brian Walker, meanwhile, have a little catching up to do. Mobley didn't hang up his playing cleats until a few years ago, turning in a dozen seasons between the NFL and CFL that included two Grey Cup championships. He's now the secondary coach at Bonney Lake High School southeast of Tacoma.

And Walker, who spent nine years in the NFL, is a volunteer assistant at a high school in Florida, reports Burns.

Even Ray Jackson, the self-proclaimed "little kid" of the group who is now the chief of police in Center Grove, Indiana, says he did some volunteer coaching a few years ago and plans to again when his sons reach high school.

So how did everyone wind up in coaching, or at least close to it?


"A true love of the game," suggests Burns. "I never thought about the possibility when we were in school, but as you look back I think you'll find that everyone of us enjoyed helping the younger guys, the guys backing us up but also the receivers, telling them how we read their routes. That mentality has just carried over."

Coaching the same position has kept Burns, Rushing and Hunter in frequent contact over the years, they say.

Hunter and Mobley, meanwhile, are in constant communication.

"We grew up with each other; same neighborhood, same high school and same college," Mobley laughs when talking about Hunter. "Ironically, we hold the same (coaching) positions so we do talk a lot of football, but we mostly talk about what we have been up to lately and how our seasons are going. Occasionally, we give each other advice."

Mobley, Hunter, Rushing and Burns all made their WSU debuts in 1991 -- Mobley and Burns as true freshmen, Hunter and Rushing as second-year freshmen.


"Today as a coach, the mere thought of that -- four freshmen in the secondary -- is enough to give you gray hair," Rushing says with a chuckle.

The four were thrust into prime time that season and took their lumps on a 4-7 team that surrendered yards in bunches and gave up between 40 and 56 points in four conference games.

They got their proverbial sea legs in 1992, as did the entire Cougar defense, and the nickname "Palouse Posse" started to circulate as WSU's answer to Arizona's "Desert Swarm." The Cougs finished 9-3 that year, capping the season with a win over Utah in the Copper Bowl.

"We had a lot of fun," says Burns, who dismisses the plethora of interceptions he racked up in '92 and ‘93 as simply other teams viewing him as the weak link. "We had the hard-hitting safeties in John and Singor and the brash corner in Torey. So I got a lot of attention -- opponents thought all the passes should come my way."

The Palouse Posse nickname that started in '92 began to take firm root in 1993, and then really took off in 1994 when WSU boasted the top-rated defense in the land.

"During home games, you could shut your eyes and tell purely from the crowd noise whether the Posse was on the field," remembers former Cougfan.com associate editor Pat Mitchell. "We wanted the defense on the field at all times. I'm not kidding. They were playmakers. They scored touchdowns, set up touchdowns, and hit like freight trains. The excitement they brought to Martin Stadium is only rivaled by the 1997 team that went to the Rose Bowl."

The lineup included, among others, the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year (linebacker Mark Fields), three other future NFL linebackers (Ron Childs, Chris Hayes and back up James Darling), the Morris Trophy winner (defensive tackle Chad Eaton), and the No. 1 sack-master in WSU history (defensive end DeWayne Patterson).

The Posse Secondary

FS John Rushing, Merced, CA (1991-94): Freshman All-American and later second-team all-conference. The fourth-most prolific tackler in WSU history.

CB Torey Hunter, Tacoma (1991-94): Drafted 3rd round by Houston Oilers. Played two seasons there and five in the CFL. Second-team or honorable mention all-Pac-10 four straight years.

SS Singor Mobley, Tacoma (1991-94) : Three seasons with Cowboys, then stardom in CFL with Edmonton. Honorable mention all-Pac-10 three times.

CB Greg Burns, Los Angeles (1991-93, '95): 15 seasons of college and NFL coaching, including USC, Arizona State and K-State. Broke into WSU's top 10 career interceptions list as a junior.

S/C Brian Walker, Colorado Spring (1994-95): Nine seasons playing safety in the NFL for Lions, Dolphins, ‘Hawks and Redskins.

S/C Ray Jackson, Santa Ana, CA (1993-94, 96-97: The youngster of the Palouse Posse secondary became a mainstay on WSU's '98 Rose Bowl team, as did brother Chris. Played on Kansas City Chiefs practice squad for one season and in NFL Europe for one year.

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"We were ready and got after it from the beginning and when I say beginning I mean our first scrimmage," Hunter said of the legendary 1994 Cougar D. "Guys were flying around and hitting hard because we knew what was at stake. Of everything I did at WSU, that was probably my proudest moment as a Coug."

They started to gain national attention after surrendering just one TD in the first four weeks of the season – something Bill Doba, then in his first season as defensive coordinator, recently called one of the fondest memories from his time in Pullman. Three of those games -- against Illinois, Tennessee and UCLA -- were on the road.

The lone TD came on the trip to Knoxville, against a young Peyton Manning. An over-the-top homer call in the waning minutes cost the Cougs the win, 10-9, but the defense's confidence skyrocketed.

"We knew if we could stick it to the Volunteers in hostile territory, we were going to be great," Mobley said. "We had the mentality that we were going to get after it every game and if the offense didn't bring it on that particular game, we were going to embarrass them."

The WSU offense that year was anemic. In five games they scored 10 points or less, causing some public friction between the defense and the offense.

"People on the West Coast still remember our defense," Rushing notes. "If we'd had any kind of offense I think we would have had a shot at the national championship."

The Cougs finished the year 8-4, capping it with wins over Washington in the Apple Cup and Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. Hunter, Mobley and Rushing were seniors on that team. They concluded their WSU careers with a collective 126 games started in the Cougar secondary.

"I take a lot of pride in knowing I was a part of something so great in school history," Hunter said. "I was very fortunate to be part of such a great group of guys that all had the same goals."

As fate would have it, that '94 team was without Burns, who had earned honorable mention all-conference honors the prior season. He blew a knee in the offseason and sat out the entire '94 campaign. But the tag-team that replaced him was outstanding: Walker, a junior college transfer who went on to play for the Lions, Dolphins, Seahawks and Redskins, and Jackson, who became a mainstay on the 1997 WSU team that went to the Rose Bowl.


"I felt like a little kid playing with a bunch of grown men," Jackson said of being thrust onto center stage with Hunter, Mobley and Rushing after Burns was hurt. "They just wreaked havoc back there ... That '94 defense with (Don) Sasa, Eaton and Fields was incredible. No team will ever touch that defense. Our defense did a pretty good job in our Rose Bowl season, but it wasn't like '94."

That '94 defense was rated the No. 2 stop corps in the nation after the regular season and then numero uno after giving up just three points to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl.

The seeds of that success were sewn in 1991, when a group of bright-eyed freshmen took their lumps.

"Coach ('91 defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer) was relentless on us all year to stay positive and be motivated at all times," Hunter said. "We were getting better every game because of our hunger to want to be the best and make things happen. Having a great offense with dynamic players to practice against didn't hurt either!"


That '91 Cougar offense included Drew Bledsoe at quarterback, Shaumbe Wright-Fair at running back, Clarence Williams at tight end, and receivers C.J. Davis, Philip Bobo and Deron Pointer.

The young defense couldn't match that firepower, but they began developing chemistry.

"We started doing everything together and just gelling with one another," Mobley said. "Everything from eating, to lifting, to film study, even school work, our goal was to build a brotherhood. We wanted to get to the point on the field where we could know what we were thinking before the play. That way, we could take risks on the field and know we had each other's back without thinking about it."

Adds Burns: "It was great to be part of it, part of a group – the entire rag-tag bunch of us on defense who believed in ourselves – that showed people how defense could be, should be, played at Washington State."

And now, nearly 20 years after they last rode together, the legend of arguably the finest secondary in WSU history lives on through coaching careers whose roots are firmly planted in the rolling hills of the Palouse.

Of note: Through the miracle of YouTube, the glory of the Palouse Posse still rides high in living color. Click here for a sampling.


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