Mullenix: The Chosen One

A YEAR AGO, it was <b>Brian Boyer</b> of Lapwai, the Idaho farm town 45 minutes south of Lewiston. In 2000, it was <b>Calvin Armstrong</b> of Centralia. And the year before that it was <b>Rien Long</b> of Anacortes. This year it's <b>Matt Mullenix</b> of Spangle, the farming outpost south of Spokane just off the highway to Pullman.

Every year, it seems, Mike Price picks up a Northwest prep lineman who has been overlooked by the so-called recruiting experts. A hometown off the beaten recruiting path is one commonality. But there are two other distinctions: A good physical frame and tremendous athleticism.

In fact, take a look at the resumes of Long (6-6, 280), Armstrong (6-7, 292) and Boyer (6-4, 235) and you see a distinct pattern: Each was a two-way standout at a school in the hinterlands. Each also excelled in the most athletic of sports: Basketball. Mullenix is cut from the same cloth.

Mullenix impressed folks at Price's football camp last summer with his lateral movement, work ethic and ability to fight through blockers. He runs the 40 in 4.8 seconds. Moreover, says his prep coach, he has great character and a big-time presence in the classroom, maintaining a 3.9 GPA --- a GPA that earned him an academic scholarship to WSU in 2002; he won't go on a football scholarship untill 2003.

"ANY DIVISION I coach in the nation who saw Calvin Armstrong in high school would have recruited him," Price told a year ago. "This kid can play. We locked him up early, so there wasn't a lot of attention given to him, which was just fine with me."

It's no coincidence that Mullenix, who will player either linebacker or defensive end at WSU, attended Price's summer camp just like Boyer and the others did before him.

Cases like theirs, where the coach knows first-hand what he's getting, help explain why Price encourages a few grains of salt when digesting the national prospect ratings.

Armstrong, Long, Boyer and Mullenix each was awarded a single star out of a possible five in the rating system used by the national and regional recruiting analysts. Today, Long is one of the Pac-10's finest defensive tackles; Armstrong a major force on the offensive line; and Boyer, a redshirt in 2001, an impressive entity in practices.

Part of their earlier obscurity was simple geography --- the smaller the school and the more remote it is, the less likely a talented kid is going to have analysts paying attention or recruiters pounding down the door. Anacortes is hardly Broward. Lapwai is certainly no Compton. And Spangle isn't even a Walla Walla, which is why Mullenix is the "Chosen One" for WSU's 2002 recruiting class rather than linebacker Brian Hall, a three-year standout from perennial Class B-11 powerhouse DeSales High.

Mullenix is from Liberty High, a Class 1A Northwest League school that won but three games in 2001. In a conference where some linemen go 175, Mullennix is a giant, standing 6-3 and weighing 235. He comes by his talent naturally. His dad, Scott, starred at Spokane's Shadle Park High before going on to start at linebacker for the Cougars in the early 1970s.

Matt could follow in dad's footsteps at LB or wind up at defensive end. He was a three-year starter at Liberty at both linebacker and fullback. This season he earned all-league honors at both positions, but defense is wear he really excelled, posting 139 total stops --- an average of 15 per game. His prep coach, Rod Fletcher, told CF.C that the kid's athleticism ranks up there with the finest ever to come out of Spangle, including former WSU starters Vince and Chris Leightonand former UW starters Dave and Dean Browning.

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