It's not likely to rival The Who’s legendary goodbye of 1982, but for Cougar fans entertained and elevated by the happy-footed cornerback’s pre-game ode to joy over the last three seasons, 2017 will be the last look at arguably the greatest “warm-up artist” in Cougar history.
To say the rising fourth-year senior has grown a following at home and away games is an understatement. Pippins likes to dance and Cougar Nation likes to watch him dance.
The 5-10, 175-pound Richmond, Calif., product beams a wide grin when asked about his unique pre-game routine.
"It's just me being excited to play the game, getting ready to play," Pippins told CF.C during Holiday Bowl preparations in December.
Where some players go through their pre-game rituals before they get on the field, or slip on headphones and listen to music during individual on-field warm ups, Pippins is a bit more noticeable – and unpredictable.
You never know when he’ll bust out the dance moves (see clip at bottom of page).
"It just depends on what kind of music is playing, how I'm feeling at that point in time,” he says. “Most of the time I've already got something ready from the night before or I just come up with it off my head.”
His whole family, especially dad, is known for fancy footwork, he says.
Pippins’ motivation on game days is not to get hyped, he says, but rather to calm his nerves. "It just shows my confidence, you know? That I'm confident and ready to play.”
Indeed, says WSU defensive coordinator and secondary coach Alex Grinch, Pippins is all business in practices and games.
"You know everybody has their own personalities and obviously Pippins is unique that way, and I think the guys enjoy being around him and you certainly see his energy but when it's time to be locked in, dialed in to meetings and his individual techniques and fundamentals, he's able to do that ...,” Grinch says.
In the last two seasons, Pippins has started 22 of the Cougars’ 26 games. His production last season was notable. He posted two interceptions and five pass breakups, and returned a blocked field goal try 72 yards for a touchdown against Idaho (clip at bottom of page). https://twitter.com/PAE21/status/772959786715316226
In the media gathering after that Idaho game, Pippins demonstrated the keys to executing a perfect Thizzle dance. It's all in creating a good, balanced foundation, he said.
AS FOR 2017, THE TALENT LEVEL IN THE secondary has steadily grown over recent recruiting cycles, notes Grinch, so Pippins will need to be sharp to secure his starting role. Pippins has has done "a good job for us," says Grinch, but “he's going to have to work that much harder to not only be a starter for us but to produce more for us.”
Look for challenges from sophomore Marcus Strong and second-year freshman D'Jimon Jones.
Pippins makes no secret of his goals before the Cougars kickoff on Sept. 2 against Montana State: "Getting my size up, getting my weight up, just being more physical and working more on my techniques so I can be one of the best corners in the Pac-12."
Spring ball begins March 23. The Crimson and Gray game is set for 2 pm at Spokane’s Albi Stadium on April 22 with TV coverage on the Pac-12 Networks.
NOTABLE PIPPINS NOTES:
- His position coach at El Cerrito High was WSU Hall of Famer and 2001 All-American safety Lamont Thompson. Pippins was ranked among the top 75 corner prospects in the nation by Scout.com in the 2013 recruiting cycle.
- Pippins graduated from high school and then delayed enrollment at WSU, arriving in January 2014. He appeared destined for a redshirt that first season on the Palouse but then played in the final three games of the 2014 season, starting two of them.
- Pippins' electrifying TD last fall against Idaho ...
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