Paging Jonathan, er, Tana Pritchard

AFTER A STELLAR spring performance that will slot him No. 1 on the depth chart at weakside linebacker heading into fall camp, the searing lights of prime time already have unearthed a tightly held secret about fourth-year Washington State junior Tana Pritchard.

Tana isn't his real name.

True fact. Well, technically, anyway.

"... my dad's name is David, which in Samoan, David is Tavita," Pritchard said in a recent interview. "My mom didn't want people to call my older brother Junior, so instead of calling him David and being the same as my dad, they called him Tavita. He went by his Samoan name.

"In the Bible, David and Jonathan are best friends, and so my parents named me Jonathan, but instead of me going by my English name, and Tavita going by his Samoan name, they had me go by Ionatana, but nobody could say that so they just shortened it to Tana."

And now you know.

What is not so secret is that this high-energy Clover Park High product figures to be at the center of a heated position battle come August. He and Chester Sua are on a collision course for the starting nod at WIL linebacker.

Pritchard holds the edge right now after following up a strong winter workout period with an equally strong spring campaign.

The 6-3, 220-pound Pritchard also has the momentum of the 2013 season in his sails. He had the fifth-most tackles for the Cougars, with 55, and started the last three games. In the Apple Cup and New Mexico Bowl he posted a career-high eight stops in each.

For Pritchard, both football and WSU are in his blood. His dad played on WSU's 1981 Holiday Bowl team, and legendary Jack Thompson and Jack's son, former WSU starting tight end Tony Thompson, are cousins. Jack's place in the clan effectively is that of an uncle and that's what Pritchard calls him.

In addition, brother Tavita is a former starting QB at Stanford who is now the Cards' quarterbacks and receivers coach.

Pritchard offered CF.C insights on an array of topics in an interview the other day ...

Cougfan.com: Your father played for WSU. Did that factor into you choosing WSU as well?

Tana Pritchard: Absolutely. We weren't allowed to wear purple in our house at all, even if it was purple without the UW logo. My dad played in the 1981 Holiday Bowl and I've been a Coug since I can remember. I think the first game I came to, I was 3, and I grew up as a Coug, wearing Cougar stuff, and I just loved coming to Pullman and coming to games. I wanted to be a Coug since I was a little kid, so it definitely had a big impact on me.

CF.C: What was life like growing up?
TP: I grew up with seven siblings, all of whom played sports, and so growing up, my older brother (Tavita) was always one of my biggest role models and one guy I really looked up to. He did a really good job of including me in everything he did as a child. We would go up and work on our quarterback mechanics with Uncle Jack Thompson in Seattle. We would go visit him every Sunday and right after church, we would go throw with him. That was more of a mental and leadership growing for me because I don't play quarterback anymore, but I still use the things I learned with Uncle Jack to help me be a better leader here at Washington State.

CF.C: What other qualities about your brother made him a role model for you?
TP: Where do I begin? It wasn't really popular to have your little brother following you around and trying to do everything you do. He was always great. I would steal his clothes, I would try to go along wherever they went, and they would have pickup games and he would always invite me and try to get me in to play with them. Even when he left for Stanford, I went down there two or three times when I was in high school, and got to go hang out with him while he was still playing at Stanford, and he never made it like a brother rivalry. It was more affectionate and I always looked up to that, and I try to instill that with me and my little brother.

CF.C: When you came to WSU, did you find that your teammates here were just as accepting of you as your older brother?
TP: It was different because they weren't my older brother. They were more on the same level as me, or at least that's what I thought. But the older guys did a great job of accepting us into the culture here and Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who was a senior linebacker and he kind of took me under his wing. Every Wednesday, for example, we would have Bento night where we would go to Red Bento in Moscow and the older guys would drive me and a couple younger guys out there, and we would eat at the restaurant. He and Mike Ledgerwood and the other linebackers did a great job of accepting us into the program, and helping us with whatever we needed help with, so yeah, I guess you could say it was similar to what I experienced with my older brother.

CF.C: Now that you're one of the older guys, do you value doing that for the younger guys who are on the team?
TP: Absolutely, and Leach does a good job of kind of not giving us a choice of welcoming them into the program. Regardless of whether or not he would be doing that, I would've taken the same standpoint just because of what I learned in my past and how important that was and is still to me. Because of Coach Leach, we have a Big Brother program where, when the new freshmen come in, some of the older established guys are assigned a little brother, and we give them our number on the very first day they're on campus, and help them move into the dorms, and take them to restaurants and show them around Pullman. If they ever have any questions, they text us, and two of my little brothers have been Taylor Taliulu and Peyton Pelluer, and I'm still really good friends with them, and I still help them out with whatever they need.

CF.C: When you're not playing football, what are you doing?
TP: I'm probably playing basketball at the Rec Center, as much as the coaches don't like to hear that, a couple of the guys love to go play basketball. I have a black lab who is always with me in the summer. I take him to the river and go swimming, so I just love being outside and I love being active.

CF.C: What other sports did you play growing up, and what made you choose football as the one that you played in college?
TP: I played football, basketball, and baseball. I stopped playing baseball once I got to high school because I wanted to focus on football and basketball. I was pretty good at basketball, but I don't know if I could have competed at the college level. Even if I did, I wouldn't be one of the main guys. I would be more of a role player, and I think that's the reason I stuck with football. Not because I disliked basketball, I love basketball and will always have fun shooting around, but I just thought that football was the best chance for me to earn a scholarship and to get my school paid for, and that's what it came down to.

CF.C: Before games, do you have a song or playlist you like to listen to?
TP: I actually listen to my second cousins' band, and it's a Christian group. They're called The Katinas, and two of my favorite songs they sing are "One More Time" and "Thank You." I listen to all their songs before games, and I've listened to their music before games since high school and I'll listen to their music before games every time I play any sport.

CF.C: Is church a pretty big part of your life then?
TP: Absolutely. I'm one of the leaders with Athletes In Action here on campus. We're the organization that is in charge of the Christian side of campus and athlete community, so we do Bible studies and AIA nights, and I attend Real Life Church here in Pullman. Faith and God is a huge part of my life.

CF.C: Is that something that your parents instilled in you early, or did you find that on your own?
TP: My parents definitely instilled that in me early. My dad went to Young Life for a long time, which is a high school Christian organization, and now he's a pastor at our church back in Lakewood.

Cougfan Top Stories