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For WSU middle linebacker Peyton Pelluer, the Holiday Bowl is familiar territory, but he was wearing purple in his previous two trips

PULLMAN – Washington State hasn’t been to the Holiday Bowl since 2003, but for standout middle linebacker Peyton Pelluer it’ll be trip No. 3 – his first, however, while clad in the proper colors.

It’s been well-chronicled that Pelluer comes from a long line of Cougar ballplayers -- dad Scott, grandpa Arnie and great-grandpa Carl – but less publicized is the fact Peyton once bled purple and gold.

For proof of his one-time (some might say, misguided) allegiance, consider that he previously attended two Holiday Bowls as a University of Washington partisan:

  • In 1996, when Peyton was two-years-old and Scott was a UW assistant coach, the Huskies lost to Colorado in the San Diego classic, and
  • In 2010, when brother Cooper was a Dawg linebacker, the Huskies defeated Nebraska.

Peyton and the family were neck high in team and fan activities both times, says Pelluer’s mom, Kim.

“He was super proud of his brother – and plus with Scott coaching there for six years – I mean he kind of was raised a Husky,” she recently told Cougfan.com.

On Dec. 27 in Qualcomm Stadium, WSU’s reigning tackle king will make his own Holiday Bowl history – with no purple in sight – when the 8-4 Cougars battle the 8-4 Minnesota Golden Gophers (4 pm Pacific/ESPN).

Pelluer’s color switch happened shortly after Mike Leach was hired to be WSU's head coach.

Leach extended a scholarship offer to Pelluer to come play linebacker in Pullman -- and Pelluer's worldview changed completely. After signing his letter of intent with the Cougs, the Pride of Skyline High in Sammamish made an emphatic statement.

“He literally got rid of all his purple and gold,” recalls Kim, herself a proud WSU graduate. “He invited all of his Husky friends over and just said have at it. He said ‘I want to get it all out of my closet.’ So he was done after that point. Done with the Huskies regardless of his brother.”

Except for a family trek to the 2003 Rose Bowl to watch the Cougs take on Oklahoma, Pelluer had been a Husky fan all his life up to that point.

BESIDES WSU, PELLUER RECEIVED scholarship offers from Arizona State, Colorado and others, but not Washington – something that disappointed Cooper. But after Peyton’s commitment, Kim said, Cooper was in full support of his little brother’s decision. “He (Cooper) was like ‘heck with them. Go to WSU and pave your own way,’ and was just … super excited for him.”

The decision worked well for all concerned. With one year of eligibility still to go, the Cougar defense is exponentially better than it was when Pelluer signed in 2012 and the 6-0, 235-pounder with a fondness for face paint already has earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors twice.

Which is all fine and well, but the fourth-year junior really has just one thought on his mind right now: securing a second-straight, nine-win season for the Cougars.

“I’ve been telling the guys that it’s going to be a good bowl and that we're going to have lots of fun. But at the end of the day it’s a business trip and we are going to treat it that way. We’re going down there for business and that’s to win,” Pelluer said earlier this week.

In mid conversation, it dawned on him that brother Cooper’s Holiday Bowl-winning ring has been sitting on display on a shelf back home for the last six years.

“I would love to put my ring next to his ring – or in front of it,” he said with a laugh.

PEYTON PELLUER’S CRIMSON TREE:

Father Scott was a standout linebacker at WSU from 1977-80 and still ranks in the WSU record book for tackles. He earned honorable mention all-Pac-10 honors before going on to a six-year career in the NFL.

Grandpa Arnie Pelluer played end for the Cougars from 1953-55, and was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams.

Great-grandfather Carl Gustafson played fullback and linebacker for the Cougars from 1925-27. He was dubbed "King of the Campus" for his heroics in WSC's 9-6 upset of Washington in 1926.

FOR THE SECOND-STRAIGHT YEAR, PELLUER IS WSU'S LEADING TACKLER WITH 89 STOPS HEADED INTO HOLIDAY BOWL:

USA Today Sports/James Snook

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