Putting Bruggman Affair into true perspective

LET'S SAY there's a kid whose parents are proud graduates of Washington State. And that kid grows up in Spokane, rooting on the Cougs and regularly attending games at Martin Stadium. Now imagine the kid developing into an All-State quarterback. But not just any All-State QB -- he's one the Cougs want desperately to play for them.

While Mark Rypien's life mimics a few parts of that tale, the story is fictional.

But swap out WSU for ASU, and Spokane for Phoenix, and the imaginary yarn is actually Tyler Bruggman's real-life story.

He was born and raised a Sun Devil.

Yet he's coming to play football at Washington State.

Which leads to a question that I don't believe has been asked enough, or perhaps loud enough: How hard was that decision to make?

This is not just an example of a prospect narrowing his choices to two schools and being completely torn over which way to go. We're talking about one of those schools being THEE school, the one whose logo is imprinted in his DNA.


An educated guess here is that Jake Plummer and Pat Tillman posters covered his wall, not Drew Bledsoe and Marcus Trufant.

Bruggman went through a back-and-forth decision-making process last May and June to arrive at Washington State over Arizona State.

That decision to go crimson serves as a testament to the power of Mike Leach, and to the open-mindedness of Bruggman and his parents.

All seemed well. He wore Cougar shirts, helped recruit other athletes to WSU, and said Marquess Wilson's public meltdown didn't phase him at all.

And then everything briefly was turned upside down last week. With Joshua Dobbs opting to renege on his ASU verbal pledge to go with Tennessee, the Devils came at Bruggman again.

The star from Brophy Prep was torn anew. And for good reason. This wasn't just any school calling. As Bear Bryant famously said of leaving the head job at Texas A&M to coach at Alabama, "When mama calls, then you just have to come running."


For Tyler, this wasn't just his favorite team from childhood calling. It was his favorite team pleading with him, for a second time in this recruiting cycle, to go with the home cookin'.

You can almost hear the pitch now.

It's not too late to fulfill your childhood dream .. Dany White, Mark Malone, Mike Pagel, Paul Justin, Jeff Van Raaphorst, Jake Plummer, Brock Osweiler -- and TYLER BRUGGMAN.

Long live Sparky! Frank Kush forever!

Recruiting is a delicate dance. The mind can race. Was Dobbs' move a Divine sign to stay home? A rare second chance to redirect the course of your life?

We're taking about an 18-year-old kid. His family and friends are Sun Devil partisans. The team he grew up on is coming off an 8-5 season that included a bowl win. The team he verbally committed to finished 3-9 and, except for two quarters in the final game of the season, looked uninspiring in the process.

From all accounts, Tyler thought hard about switching from WSU to ASU at the 11th hour.

But when he signed his letter of intent last Wednesday, he was wearing a Cougar hat and a crimson-colored tie.

He said he didn't wish the agonizing recruiting process on anybody. He and his prep coach talked about being a man of your word.

Cougar fans were shaken Wednesday by Bruggman's vacillation.

Now that the dust has settled, they shouldn't just be relieved. They should be thrilled on a level that conjures images of Gesser and Thompson, two of the coolest operators ever to take a snap at WSU.

Johnny Unitas, the gold standard of NFL quarterbacks, was often said to be so calm under pressure, so clutch under fire, that his veins didn't course with blood. Nope. Johnny U, they said, had ice water in his veins.

I've never seen Bruggman play. I can't wax eloquent about his arm angle or check-down skills. Nor have I ever talked with him. I don't know if he has a firm handshake or the voice of maturity. But I can tell you I am impressed beyond measure with him.

He has grit hanging off one shoulder, determination off the other.

A poster on the CF.C message boards last Wednesday wondered if Bruggman's wavering could tarnish the perception of him among the crimson faithful.

Two words: No way.

His momentary pause simply proved that he's not a robot.

The real takeaway is that he's a high school senior who stood tall against the external pressure and internal emotion. He looked his hometown and favorite team in the face, and respectfully said his future would be best served at Washington State University.

Pullman would be his true north.

That tells me he's a young man who is not going to buckle in the face of the USC front seven or Oregon's blitz-crazed overloading.

A kid like that has ice water in his veins. And the Cougar Nation rejoices.

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