Paymah the next great DB?

TALK ABOUT LEARNING from the finest. In his four years in Pullman, cornerback <b>Karl Paymah</b> has played with, and been a student of, some of the best DBs ever to roam the Palouse. <b>Billy Newman, Lamont Thompson, Marcus Trufant, Erik Coleman</b> and <b>Jason David</b> -- among them are records, accolades and leadership skills that argue Ol' Wazzu is actually DB U rather than QB U. And now Paymah, entering his final college season, looks poised to carry on that legacy of lock-down play.

And if you want to add a little serendipity to the notion that Paymah's brushes with greatness have rubbed off on him, consider that his position coach, Ken Greene, is widely considered THE greatest defensive back in Cougar history.

"Obviously, Karl Paymah, you would hope he'll be a special guy," WSU defensive coordinator Robb Akey told as he looked ahead to the '04 campaign. "Two years ago, he did a tremendous job for JD (Jason David) when necessary and then he handled that position throughout the course of this past season very well."

Indeed, when David's jaw was broken in that infamous locker room sucker punch in 2002, the 6-foot, 200-pound Paymah was thrust onto center stage as the Cougars entered the stretch run of their quest for the Rose Bowl. In his first game as a starter, against Arizona State, he posted seven tackles and deflected a pass.

The Cougar Nation breathed a collective sign of relief. The youngster from Culver City, Calif., would hold things together just fine.

He made two more starts and played considerably in three more after that, to finish the year with 18 tackles. In the process, he cemented a starting role for himself in 2003.

With David locking down one corner spot this past season, Paymah was again on the hot seat because opposing QBs had little interest in throwing to David's side of the field.

Paymah responded with 55 tackles -- fifth-most on the team -- and ten break ups. He also had one interception and a fumble recovery.

"He got consistently better throughout this season -- that's what I was most excited about," Akey said. In 2004, with greater confidence and greater understanding of the game, Paymah could elevate himself to the next level of excellence, Akey says.

"I really think he'll be a better player next year because I think a lot of it is confidence and the mental factors. He's got the physical tools like a son-of-a-gun -- good size, really good speed and a real good cover guy."

"Now being through a season of it, and a big season at that, and being the one that people were throwing the ball at because they were trying to avoid JD's interception, you know he's (really) been tested. So we expect a real good year from him."

The Cougars will open the 2004 season in Albuquerque against New Mexico. The game will be played Sept. 3 -- a Friday night -- so it can be aired live on ESPN. A week later, on Sept. 11, the Cougars will continue their tradition of playing one home game in Seattle in Seahawks Stadium when they battle Colorado in a day game. The Cougars' Pullman schedule consists of games against Idaho, Oregon, Stanford, USC and Washington.

From the better late than never category comes this juicy nugget that somehow slipped through the editing cracks during the holidays. Senior defensive tackle Jeremey Williams was one of six Cougars named to the 2003 Pacific-10 All-Academic football team. Williams became just the fifth player in conference history to be named to the first unit of the All-Academic team four times. Other Cougar first-team honorees were tight end Troy Bienemann, and lineacker Pat Bennett. Offensive lineman Riley Fitt-Chappell was second team and seniors Drew Dunning and Billy Knotts were honorable mention.

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