National Football Foundation/Melissa Macatee

Cougar o-line great Mike Utley still stopping people in their tracks; Enters College Football Hall of Fame with no regrets

COUGAR O-LINE GREAT MIKE UTLEY, who entered the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday, is still stopping people in their tracks. In 1991, Utley's NFL career ended with a spinal cord injury but as he was being taken off the field, he famously gave a thumbs-up to the Detroit crowd. Twenty-five years later, the Washington State All-America offensive guard continues to live life to the fullest, and with two thumbs up.

"It's living life is what I cherish. I don't wait for a cure, I live for one," Utley, 50, told the Associated Press.

The Cougar teammate Utley said he wished most could have been in New York for Tuesday's ceremony was Chris Dyko, a tackle on the Wazzu o-line with Utley from 1985-88. Dyko died in December 2014 when he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle.

"He was my right side and we were two peas in a pod," Utley said. "I miss him the most him not being here."

Here's Utley's remarks before the awards dinner to the media, courtesy of the National Football Foundation and Sports Systems.

First of all, I want to say thank you for the College Hall of Fame for bringing me out here. And it's an honor. But also listening to some of these linebackers with the great tackles and the numbers, obviously, they didn't play against guards (who did) their damn job. But besides that ... (laughter) But it was a pleasure to have guys like Mark Rypien, Ed Blount and Timm Rosenbach and being able to compete.

And that's what I really enjoyed the most, is being able to find a way to work with the other four guys and create a unity. And that's --it's a family, being able to be up here with these guys and honestly say I enjoyed the game of football.

I have no regrets. And watching these other guys like Mark Rypien becoming MVP of the Super Bowl, it's just being a part of a group of men that gave 100 percent of themselves every play and every moment and trying to live the best way you can by example ... being tough on the field for a little fellow coming up and making a difference.

And that's what we're trying to do and being able to fight for a moment -- what God gave you, the talent that he gave us, to compete against the best of the best and represent the Washington State Cougars, represent Frank and Irene Utley, and now everyone in the College Football Hall of Fame, and being able to show society: it takes leadership.

How do you do that? By giving 100 percent of yourself and being able to work with the Cougars and ultimately raise some numbers on the field. But again, it was a team, and they deserve a lot of the credit for my success being here today. So I wanted to say thank you again.

UTLEY's SPINAL CORD injury during a 1991 game against the Rams left him paralyzed but while a pivotal moment, Utley has long said he's never allowed it to become a life-defining moment. It simply, he says, altered his path. Utley is medically defined as a quadriplegic but through years of strenuous rehabilitation he regained the use of his shoulders, arms and hands, and has partial movement in his legs. He created the Mike Utley Foundation in 1992 to help find a cure for paralysis through research, education and rehabilitation.

Utley was a three-time All-Pac-10 selection at guard for the Cougs from 1985-88, his final two seasons as a first-team pick, and was named consensus All-America his senior season in 1988.  In his final game as a Cougar, Utley helped lead Washington State to a 24-22 win over Houston in the 1988 Aloha Bowl.

The Aloha Bowl named him the game's MVP. 

Utley was inducted into the Washington State Hall of Fame in 2004.  Wazzu's Offensive Lineman of the Year Award carries his name. Among the many awards he has received in recent years are the WSU Alumni Achievement Award and the Walter Camp Man of the Year Award. CF.C named Utley to its All-Time Cougar Team in 2015, the other offensive linemen selected were Mel Hein, Dan Lynch, Derrick Roche and Steve Ostermann.

Utley is fourth Cougar player to enter the College Football Hall of Fame and sixth member overall, joining Mel Hein, Turk Edwards and Rueben Mayes. WSU coaches William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz and Babe Hollingbery are also in the Hall of Fame. (Forrest Eveshevski is as well, but mostly for his work at Iowa).

The 2016 College Football Hall of Fame Class:
Marlin Briscoe (Nebraska-Omaha); Derrick Brooks (Florida State); Tom Cousineau (Ohio State); Randall Cunningham (UNLV); Troy Davis (Iowa State); William Fuller (North Carolina); Bert Jones (LSU); Tim Krumrie (Wisconsin); Pat McInally (Harvard); Herb Orvis (Colorado);  Bill Royce (Ashland); Mike Utley (Washington State)' Scott Woerner (Georgia), Rod Woodson  (Purdue,  represented by his son,  Demitrius) and coaches Bill Bowes (New Hampshire) and Frank Girardi (Lycoming).

RELATED: WSU's Mike Utley to be honored at homecoming game

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