11-on-1 with Cougar LB Cyrus Coen

PULLMAN – Cyrus Coen grew up on a pig farm and walked on at Washington State after being told a high school foot injury would prevent him from ever playing sports again. When he’s done with football, he plans to become a policeman back home in Hawaii. No wonder coach Mike Leach says Coen is the “toughest” linebacker on the Cougars.

No wonder Coen is this week’s guest for 11-on-1, a Cougfan exclusive in which individuals with ties to WSU football answer 11 questions that run the gamut from standard to strange.

1. Most people view Hawaii as paradise. What was it like growing up on a pig farm in Pearl City?

Coen: Hard work is not new to me. I used to wake up at 4:30 to go lift (weights) and go to school, and after practice come home with my sister and then do homework and stuff, then I had to go back and work on the farm after that.

2. Leach is a pretty demanding guy, so what was your reaction when he singled you out as the Cougars’ toughest linebacker?

Coen: I’ve got to own up to it now (smiles). I can’t go back on his words. I’ve got to keep being tough.

3. You’re small for a Pac-12 linebacker at 6 feet and 208 pounds. Do you expect any challenges from the young pups in the linebackers crew now that Leach has identified you as this tough guy?

Coen: We’ll see (smiles). We’ll see if they’re up to it.

4. Saturday’s win over Portland State marked the first time the Cougars put together a complete game this season. What was the difference after losing the first two games?

Coen: Just a lot more guys focused. In practice, everybody was working a lot harder.

5. Legendary Cougars quarterback Jack Thompson, a distant relative, helped you hook up with Washington State. Why would a young man want to move from Hawaii to Pullman?

Coen: Just experience new and different things. There’s more than a rock in the middle of the ocean.

6. Any regrets?

Coen: Definitely no regrets. I love it here. It’s funny, because when I first came here I was like, “What am I doing here?” Now that I’m coming to the end of my senior year, I’m really going to miss this place. I’ve met wonderful people, made friendships that will last forever. This place is definitely a place in my heart.

7. Any wardrobe adjustments that first winter in Pullman?

Coen: (Smiles) I bought a lot of sweaters, sweatpants, beanies. Especially gloves, man. People take for granted the gloves. Fingers just freeze off. My transition was all right. A lot of people don’t know I was born in Alaska.

8. Who’s the "scariest" coach on the Cougars?

Coen: Has to be Coach Joe (Salave’a, WSU’s humongous defensive line coach). You definitely don’t want to be on his bad side.

9. Who’s the scariest player on the Cougars?

Coen: It’s got to be Ton (nose tackle Toni Pole, Coen’s close friend and roommate). He’s the scariest player on the field. Off the field, he’s the nicest guy. But on the field, he’s got to be the scariest guy. He’s just so strong, and crazy ability. I’d hate to be a running back going against him.

10. The football facilities have improved substantially during your four years in Pullman. What was it like playing at the “new” Martin Stadium for the first time last Saturday?

Coen: It was so awesome running out of the tunnel and seeing the fans. The facilities: It just brings a whole new atmosphere to our game. We really appreciate the atmosphere. We’re blessed to be in the atmosphere. It’s just been awesome. It’s crazy. I just found out today our fans stand up the whole time (in the student section), the whole game? I didn’t know that. That’s crazy. Three-and-a-half hours standing. That’s so awesome.

11. The Cougars are big underdogs against second-ranked Oregon on Saturday in your Pac-12 opener. We presume everyone in your locker room thinks you can beat the Ducks, but if you did lose, could the Cougars still go to a bowl game after a 1-3 start?

Coen: Definitely. Every week is another chance to get better. You’ve always got to have a positive mindset going into every week. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is. The Pac-12 Conference is awesome. Anyone can win any week.

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