USA Today Sports/James Snook

If you thought you liked Cougar left guard Cody O'Connell already ...

SAY THIS ABOUT the most nationally decorated player in the 122 years Washington State has been playing football: He focuses on what’s important. In a 3-plus-minute interview inside WSU’s practice bubble the other day, Cody O’Connell – a.k.a. Everybody’s All-American – smiled a lot and delivered answers with absolutely no pretense.

This was straight-from-the-heart stuff that would never make it onto SportsCenter. But it lends insight into the life of a student-athlete generally and this gentle giant specifically.

Asked, for instance, what the last two weeks have been like with the whirlwind of national acclaim, the fourth-year junior didn’t hesitate to talk about … preparing for final exams.

Yep, the man who was walking down a red carpet in a snappy charcoal gray suit 10 days ago, rubbing shoulders with Lamar Jackson, and being hailed over for a chat with ESPN’s Chris Fowler, had his mind on loftier pursuits.

“School, lots and lots of school -- and practice. I mean there was a trip to Atlanta (for the Outland Trophy presentation on ESPN) but it’s kind of the outlier in the group,” he chuckles about the national spotlight. “Just been trying to get my homework done. I’ve still got school.”

Well, certainly the avalanche of All-America recognition is gratifying, right?

“Right now it doesn’t really mean much unless we win the bowl game,” said the 6-8, 354-pound left guard from Wenatchee. “I’m trying to focus on the bowl game first and then after that, you know, I’ll let myself feel excited or whatever.”

But you’re proud of what you accomplished, correct?

“I mean, I did my job,” he said. “That’s what Coach Leach emphasizes and it’s what I tried to do. That what our O-line has tried to do and we’ve done our job done for the most part and we’ve gotten better.”

Even his assessment of winter – and whether he’d prefer to practice indoors or out -- speaks to his workman-like approach to life.

“I don't really care. Either it's going to be hot or cold, we've practiced in it all ... I don’t really care, I’m going hit someone anyway, so ...” he says with a huge smile.

You can watch the entire interview here:


The 5 Majors:

Associated Press

American Football Coaches Association

Football Writers of America

Sporting News

Walter Camp Football Foundation

Other Notables:

Sports Illustrated

USA Today

Pro Football Focus

Fox Sports

CBS Sports

SB Nation


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