I've heard the tales and seen clips of Drew Bledsoe, Ryan Leaf and Jason Gesser. But they were before my time. For me, as a young sports fan, no one was more prime time than Alex Brink.
The fact he guided the Cougars to three Apple Cup victories from 2004-07 was critical to this Seattle kid surrounded in school by Husky partisans. So as I kicked around ideas for an Apple Cup story this week, I kept coming back to the name synonymous with victory.
Without further ado, my 10 Apple Cup questions for The Husky Killer, Alex Brink ...
1. You beat the Huskies three times in four starts and came so close to a clean sweep. When Cougar legends get together and Mark Rypien flashes his Super Bowl ring and Jason Gesser talks about his 24 career wins and so on, do you just throw down, "APPLE CUP. THREE!" ?
ALEX: Only to Gesser. Just kidding! The best part of being a Cougar QB is we all have an accomplishment we can hang our hat on. We all support each other so much, it feels more like you can share in each others' moment.
2. Kids playing ball at the park or in the backyard dream about making the winning throw or catch against their rival in the waning moments. You actually did it for real, and not just once but twice. Do you ever stop and smile about that or is it like 'yeah, just doing my jobl' ?
ALEX: Throwing the game winner is definitely something you dream about. Every time I think about a silent Husky Stadium I smile.
3. Do you keep in touch with Trandon Harvey and Brandon Gibson? Do you guys ever chuckle about the fact your names are literally fused together for eternity?
ALEX: Brandon and I are still very close. It's pretty cool to be a part of Apple Cup history and get to relive those moments together.
4.Talk about the emotional difference between winning the Apple Cup as a freshman in 2004 and as a senior in 2007.
ALEX: As a freshman so much of that game was about the senior class. They had never beat the Huskies so we wanted them to go out the right way. At the time I was still learning what the rivalry was all about so I probably didn't appreciate it as much as I should have. In 2007 there was so much more emotion because it was about my group of seniors who came in the same recruiting class. We had been through so much together I just wanted to go out on a good note.
5. People remember that Gibson was wide open on the winning TD in 2007, but the fact you got the ball off, going against the grain on a play fake and a blitz about to take you down, was pretty special. Do you think as a freshman you'd have been able to read and react like that?
ALEX: That play was so instinctive I like to think I would have been able to do it anytime. It really felt like an out of body experience when I was laying on my back. I still remember thinking, "man, I hope the backside safety doesn't show up," because when I let the ball go the frontside safety had come down but I didn't have time to check the other one.
6. Here's some good trivia. On the broadcast of that 2007 game, seven seconds before that TD pass, Petros Papadakis said about you, "This is a guy that will never be forgotten at Washington State." Do you feel that? Do Coug fans treat you like royalty at games and WSU events?
ALEX: I've been extremely blessed to stay involved with the program since I graduated, whether it is at athletic department functions or with the IMG broadcast team now. Throughout that time I have been blown away by how people treat me. Coug fans truly are the best fans in the country. We didn't accomplish all our goals as a team but people recognize that the athletes, including myself, bleed Crimson and Gray and they appreciate our commitment.
7. If you absolutely, positively had to pick the greatest QB in WSU history, who would you pick and why?
ALEX: Luke Falk. Honestly, so many of the guys have an argument but by the time it is all said and done Luke will probably have the record number of wins and every passing record. More importantly, he has had a ton of big moments and really plays the position the right way. He's battled through injury, adversity and has the respect of every person in the building. I've been blown away by how he handles himself and I can't say enough about him as a player and person.
8. Do you ever look at the Air Raid offense and say to yourself, "Man, I could have thrown for 20,000 yards with this set up?”
ALEX: YES! In all seriousness the Air Raid is a quarterback's dream. It's not just the amount of throws you make but also how well designed the reads and concepts are. I would have loved to see Bumpus, Gibson, Hill, etc. running those plays.
9. How well do you know Mike Leach and what's the most interesting non-football topic you've discussed?
ALEX: I have gotten to know Coach Leach well over the last few years. He has been incredibly welcoming anytime I am around the team. I can't remember a specific non-football topic but one time we spent about two hours together while he broke down every quarterback who had played for him prior to WSU. I was blown away by his ability to recall everything.
10. What's the one piece of advice you'd give, or maybe have given, Luke Falk about playing QB in the Apple Cup?
ALEX: It's just another game. Let the fans enjoy the hype, but as a player you can't buy into it. In rivalry games there are going to be swings of momentum and you have to be able to manage those.