Seen & Heard on Planet Coug: 5-8 Cougar receiver John Thompson scales the mountain

JOHN THOMPSON, WSU’S scrappy 5-foot-8 walk-on receiver from Spanaway, has been given a scholarship by Cougar coach Mike Leach. The rising senior’s path at WSU no doubt will serve as a beacon to the power of hard work and perseverance.

How so? In 2013 and 2014 he played in a combined four games and caught a collective 3 passes.

But last year he turned into a major presence for the Cougars. He played in every game –  starting in two, the Apple Cup and Sun Bowl – and scored a critical fourth-quarter TD in the victory over Arizona State.

In all, Thompson caught 24 passes last season for 255 yards.  And did we mention that he’s 5-foot-8?

News of his scholie arrived via Twitter through a fellow Cougar walk on, defensive back Dakota Sinchak, who wrote: “Shouts to my brother @J_Thompson15 gettin put on that scholly. Well deserved and a long time coming!

Thompson’s journey from Bethel High to a Pac-12 scholarship is even more impressive when you consider that much of his prep senior season was wiped out with a broken ankle.

So when Thompson himself tweeted this the other day, you know how deeply he meant it …

WSU CENTER Riley Sorenson, who lost his dad to a heart attack at the Sun Bowl this past December, has now lost his mom. Karen Sorenson passed away this morning after a long battle with cancer. WSU has set up a GoFundMe page. "Funds will provide support for funeral, medical, and related expenses. Funds raised in excess of the support needed for funeral, medical, and related expenses will be donated to a charitable cause, per NCAA bylaws. This GoFundMe Campaign was created by the Washington State University Athletic Department, and donations submitted through this page are compliant per NCAA bylaws," read the page. To donate, CLICK HERE.

SWITCHING TO HOOPS, WORD OUT OF the Seattle Rotary Boys and Girls Club, which produces a ton of basketball talent, is that Noah Williams – son of early 1980s WSU standout Guy Williams – is already attracting a ton of college interest, including an offer from Washington. But get this: he won’t even be a high school sophomore until the fall. The 6-4 point guard helped lead O’Dea High to the state 3A championship game this past season.

His sister Aminah was a star at Washington, graduating in 2014 as the Huskies’ all-time leading rebounder. As for dad, Guy was a multi-dimensional 6-9 point guard that former Cougar coach George Raveling once dubbed " the most talented player I've ever coached.” As a WSU senior in 1982-83, Williams was averaging 18.8 points and 8.9 rebounds a game when he blew a knee halfway through the campaign. The Cougs still made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament that season but Williams’ absence left the crimson faithful wondering if his loss deprived them of an Elite Eight or Sweet 16 berth.

A CASUAL READING – A TERM LIKELY not often associated with the NCAA rulebook – prompts a logical question when you get to the part about graduate transfers. It basically says that even if a scholarship player has his diploma in hand and a year of eligibility remaining, he can’t transfer to another Division I school if his resume already includes a transfer from one four-year institution to another.

So the question begs: How is shot-blocking center Valentine Izundu able to transfer to San Diego State from WSU for the upcoming hoops season when he previously transferred from Houston to WSU in 2014? The long answer is that SDSU will have to seek a waiver from the NCAA seeking his immediate eligibility, but the short answer seems to be that as long as he plans to enroll in a graduate program that WSU doesn’t offer, the NCAA will grant the exception. Que Johnson, who is transferring to Western Kentucky, doesn’t need any kind of waiver because this is the first time he’s transferred.

KIRK SCHULZ DOESN’T FORMALLY become president of WSU until next week. But word from people in and around the university suggests Mike Leach’s endorsement of and appearance with Donald Trump in Spokane earlier this month did not go unnoticed by the incoming chief. Schulz encountered a somewhat similar situation at Kansas State when football coach Bill Snyder appeared in a video ad supporting a U.S. Senate candidate. Schulz came out at that time to emphasize that KSU doesn’t endorse political candidates, and both the school and Snyder asked the campaign to remove the ad from its website.

While Schulz is said to be a firm believer in free speech and diversity of thought, he also believes high-profile university employees are the face of the entire university community and that decidedly public actions on either side of a political race don't serve the interests or unifying nature of the school. So the guess here is that Coach Leach won’t be making more stump speeches anytime soon. On the other hand, he won’t have to in order to get his message out. How so?

Every broadcast team, both network and visitor, that comes to Pullman this fall to cover a home contest  will get the obligatory 15-20 minutes of one-on-one time with the coach in his office in the run-up to game day. When you layer the heat of the fall presidential campaign on top of the autographed Trump photo hanging on Leach’s office wall and the much-talked-about Spokane appearance, you have to think Leach, WSU and Trump are going to be tied at the hip every Saturday from early September to early November.

Speaking of President Schulz, how’s this for commitment to his new school? He and wife Noel already have fully endowed a scholarship at WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine in Spokane.

AND SPEAKING OF MIKE LEACH, Chantel Jennings of wrote an interesting piece on him the other day and the unusual amount of autonomy he gives his quarterbacks. Wrote Jennings: "It's a level of trust between Leach and his quarterbacks that he calls 'one of the strengths of our offense.' According to several former quarterbacks who played for Leach, it also serves to form what they describe as the most unique relationship between a coach and a player in all of college football." Click here to read the full story, which includes comments from a range of QBs, including Luke Falk and former Kentucky star Tim Couch.

Jennings is also out today with the WSU edition of her series picking the most indispensable player (outside of QB) on each Pac-12 team. Her choice for the Cougs is record-setting senior wideout Gabe Marks. "He has spent the offseason focusing on the nuances of the position and keeping his body healthy. His sole focus has been being better than he was, which he hopes makes his team better than it was," she writes.

"With Marks, Falk can throw the ball just about anywhere and it can look like a great pass. That’s a lot of Falk, but even more of a credit to Marks. The Cougars’ season will likely go the way that Falk and Marks go, which might not be a bad thing considering how much time Falk and Marks have put in this offseason." Click here for Jennings' full write up.

OUR THROWBACK THURSDAY TWEET today is drawing notable interest, ostensibly we think because most Cougar fans aren't old enough to remember the Cardiac Kids with any clarity. Must confess this is a feast for the eyes. This helmet is on display in the back offices of the WSU Connections store in downtown Spokane:


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