Thank yous flow at WSU Hall of Fame dinner

SPOKANE — In one of the most remarkable collections of unforgettable Washington State athletes in one place, Steve Broussard -- as he did so many times on the field in the late 1980s -- commanded the spotlight. The man many consider the finest all-around running back in Cougar football history came to Washington State from South Central Los Angeles.

“Pullman saved my life,” he said Friday after receiving his plaque as part of Washington State’s 2015 Hall of Fame class.

As the video at the bottom of this page shows, "The Bruiser"'s comment drew instant applause from those on hand for the event at the Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane.

In one way or another, each of the 20 members of the induction class who were in attendance, thanked their teammates and the coaches who helped groom and nurture them into the stellar athletes they became.

Rick Riley, one of WSU’s great distance runners, said he arrived in Pullman as something of a prima donna.

“My roommate when I got there was (legendary U.S. distance runner) Gerry Lindgren,” he said. “So every day we’d go out to run the hills to train and I’d be humbled.”

Swimmer Erin McCleave arrived in Pullman from Rutherglen, Australia. “I need to thank my parents, who couldn’t be here tonight,” she said. “They bought into putting me on a plane to go halfway around the world to a place they couldn’t even find on a map.”

Collectively, Friday’s inductees played for the likes of coaching icons Jack Friel, Jack Mooberry, John Chaplin, Buck Bailey, Bobo Brayton, Jim Sweeney, Jim Walden, Dennis Erickson, Mike Price and Bill Doba.

“I want to thank my line coach (Del Wight) who taught everything I ever needed in the NFL,” defensive lineman Keith Millard said. “We’d be in the film room, have the wrong film and he’d still coach us up and get us ready to play.”

Baseball player Scott Hatteberg said, “I think about Bobo every day. I can still hear him saying ‘Hattie, stay low and keep moving.’”

Standout tight end Pat Beach, who came to WSU from Pullman High, scanned the room to find Walden to offer him his thanks.

“Coach Walden? Where are you?” he said. Once he spotted him, he added “You da man!”

Two-time all-conference center and Walter Camp All-American Geoff Reece explained that he arrived in Pullman as a walk-on tight end from Everett.

“I remember Pinky Erickson telling me to go hike the ball,” he said. “That made sense. My high school football coach said I couldn’t catch a cold in a freezer.”

Reece received his hall of fame plaque from his former linemate at WSU, Bill Moos.

Allen Kennedy, who helped the San Francisco 49ers win two Super Bowls, played for three coaches during his career with the Cougars: Jackie Sherrill, Warren Powers and Walden.

Richard Stiles, who played baseball for Buck Bailey from 1947 to 1949, went on to become a family physician in his native Yakima. When a then-Yakima Valley College coach named Bobo Brayton was struck in the head during batting practice, Stiles was one of the doctors who operated and saved his life.

His son, who accepted the plaque in his father’s honor said after watching the induction video: “I just found out that my mother married a baseball player All this time I thought she’d married a doctor!”

And one of the inductees was himself a long-time coach: tennis coach Rex Davis, who had center court in the WSU tennis stadium named in his honor.

One of the highlights of the night was the induction of former Cougar running back Jerome Harrison.

Known as “The Ghost” during his playing days, Harrison went on to break Jim Brown’s single-game rushing record with the Cleveland Browns in the NFL. But after being traded from Detroit to Philadelphia it was discovered that he had a benign tumor on his brain. After complicated, lengthy surgery he suffered stroke.

He has recovered and attended the ceremony with his wife and parents. CF.C will have a feature story on him coming shortly.

All nine of the former Cougar football players — Harrison, Millard, Beach, Broussard, Wayne Foster, Reece, Kennedy, Lamont Thompson and Marcus Trufant – played professionally. Trufant and Millard became NFL All-Pros.

Thompson, pictured above with his wife and son, remains the most prolific pass interceptor in Pac-12 history, with 24.

Hatteberg had a lengthy career in Major League baseball and his story was a main component of the book and movie Moneyball. His film fame didn’t translate perfectly to the video highlights of him that WSU showed Friday — half of “his” clips were actually of his old Cougar teammate with a similar name, Ray Hattenburg.

Broussard, who also coached at WSU under Bill Doba, said the timing of his induction was perfect, but his one regret was that his mother did not live to see him enshrined.

“I used to look up to guys like Walter Payton,” he said. “But she told me the only shoes you can fill are yours, and don’t be too proud to ask somebody to help you tie them.”

The class will be introduced in Pullman on Saturday as part of the WSU-Wyoming football game, which kicks off at 5:40 p.m. and will be carried on the Pac-12 Networks.

Below, are the induction speeches of Truant, Broussard and Reece (and rest assured, while they look sideways now, they will indeed play rightway up):

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