On field & off, WSU's Palacio wastes no time

KACHE PALACIO is leaving a mark at Washington State, both on the field and in the classroom. In eight days, when the fourth-year senior rush linebacker plays his final regular season game in a Cougar uniform, he will do so with his named penned in next to some of the greatest defenders ever to wear crimson.

And next month, he will receive his bachelor’s degree in social sciences, meaning it took the Gardenia, Calif., product just 3 ½ years to graduate.

His academic achievement is all the more impressive when you consider where he started. While 3.0 GPAs are the norm for him now, he finished his freshman year with a 2.1 GPA, according to WSU’s sports information office. He credits the turnaround to skills he gained in time management.

Palacio also made time work for him on the field.

He recently passed Erik Howard for the No. 10 spot on WSU’s all-time sacks list and with one more take down he will move into a tie for ninth with Rien Long.

For those with fading memories or no historic perspective, Howard won the Pac-10’s Morris Trophy in 1985 before going on to a long career with the New York Giants and Long won the 2002 Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman before taking his talents to the Tennessee Titans.

Cougar coach Mike Leach said Palacio "worked incredibly hard" over his career and steadily improved.

"When he really became a weight-room guy is where he really took off, his body changed and then also his focus and work ethic changed. But he's always played in some form or fashion since he got here," Leach said Tuesday.

Like his work in the classroom, Palacio’s sacks stats are especially impressive because he collected them while splitting time the past two seasons with fellow senior Ivan McLennan.

This season the 6-2, 231-pound Palacio has a team-leading five sacks (seventh-most in the Pac-12) and 10.5 tackles for loss (eighth-most in the conference).

Linebackers coach Roy Manning told Cougfan.com on Tuesday that Palacio's high energy and love of football are on display every day, be it practices or games. Coupled with an unquenchable thirst for understanding -- "he comes in and meets extra and is always asking questions" -- Palacio has become a role model for younger players. (And Eric Mele told Cougfan.com recently Palacio has long been among the most enthusiastic volunteers for special teams duty since Mele became special teams coach).

At the start of the season, Manning said he talked with Palacio and other seniors about the importance of their leadership. "You've played a lot football. With that comes respect from teammates, comrades for the body of work you've put together. Whether you realize it or not, teammates recognize the body work," he said.

Palacio took those words to heart this season, the coach added.

There's another dimension to Palacio that makes him a compelling story. His sense of humor.

On a defense with its share of characters, Palacio is widely considered the most colorful. Manning said the senior has used his sense of humor to joke around with younger players to help make them feel included and welcome.

He also uses his wit to needle good friends.

Last week offered up a case in point. He had reporters laughing out loud as he explained how family members informed him that he and McLennan were cousins, with roots going back to Belize. "Every time I went to a family event, 'You know that McLennan kid? He's your cousin.' I didn't want to believe it, 'Oh no, not him! Anybody but him!'" said Palacio.

1. 37.5 DeWayne Patterson (1991-94)
2. 32.5 D.D. Acholonu (2000-03)
3. 29.5 Mkristo Bruce (2003-06)
4. 22.5 Isaac Brown (2000-03)
5. 21.5 Keith Millard (1981-83)
6. 20.5 Travis Long (2009-12)
7. 19.0 Scott Pelluer (1977-80)
8. 17.5 Ivan Cook (1985-88)
9. 17.0 Rien Long (2000-02)
10. 16.0 Kache Palacio (2012-15)

Correspondent Matthew Zimmer contributed to this report.

Palacio enters his final home game, Saturday at 7:45 p.m. game against Colorado, with 130 career tackles.

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