Cougar legend Ron Childs still playing tenacious D

RON CHILDS FOREVER changed the image of Washington State football in 1994. Now he's doing the same thing in the National Indoor Football League.

Childs came to WSU in 1991 as an undersized running back from Kennewick. He left for the bright lights of the NFL as one of the Cougars' most beloved linebackers, known for his aggressive style, punishing hits and all-out hustle.

Before his senior season, Childs, the WSU defensive captain, set an outlandish goal for both his teammates and then first-year defensive coordinator Bill Doba.

Childs wanted the Cougars to lead the nation in every defensive category.

At the time, WSU was known for its prolific, wide-open offenses that featured the strong throwing arm of recently graduated quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

"A hard-nosed student of the game," as Bill Doba describes him, Childs, the unquestioned leader of what became known as the Palouse Posse, had other ideas.

"Even now, more than 10 years later, people still talk about that defense, how good we were and what we were able to accomplish," Childs said. "We were a small defense, a bunch of guys who moved over from offense. That season we became a university known for its defense more than being just Quarterback U."

Childs and the WSU defense allowed a mere 229 yards a game that season, helping WSU finish with an 8-4 record punctuated by a stifling 10-3 victory over Baylor in the Alamo Bowl.

When the final numbers were added up, Childs and his Posse had barely missed realizing Childs' preseason goal. That season the Cougs finished No. 2 in the nation in total defense and No. 3 in rushing defense and scoring defense.

Childs was selected All Pac-10, named the defensive MVP in the Alamo Bowl after making 10 tackles and headed for the NFL. Nine members of the Posse --- including Mark Fields, Singor Mobley, Chad Eaton and Don Sasa -- went on to play in either Canada or the NFL.

Childs, 33, is still playing football, still leading the defensive charge and turning games around with one big hit.

He has returned home to the Tri-Cities and is now the team captain for the Tri-Cities Fever of the National Indoor Football League, the poor man's version of the Arena League.

After leaving WSU, Childs played two seasons in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints. He played for the Scottish Claymores in NFL Europe in 1997 and for the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1998 and 1999.

He has continued to play semipro football every season before signing with the Fever, an expansion team in the National Indoor Football League this year.


The NIFL is played indoors but is not affiliated with the Arena Football League. While just as violent given the field's small dimensions, the players here are truly in it for the love the game – the NIFL has a salary cap of $200 a week, plus meals and housing.

This is the fifth season for the league, but it has been around much longer under different names. The game is played eight-on-eight on a field that fits inside the hockey boards at most arenas. Dimensions can vary slightly depending on the venue, but most are about half those of an outdoor football field.

The games are contested on an indoor-outdoor carpet laid over concrete or ice, turf injuries and infection from cuts and scrapes are as common as blocking and blitzing.

There are 25 teams in the league, but three are inactive for this season. The league's title game, Indoor Bowl V, will be played in August.

The teams are spread out across the country, with four teams from as far away as Florida. The Fever is in the West Division of the Pacific Conference with Everett its nearest rival.
"When Ron came in here a lot of people were under the impression that he was coming home to finish his football career and have one last hurrah in front of his friends and family," Fever coach Dan Whitsett said. "He can still flat-out play and is one of the top linebackers in the entire league. He plays like he's 22 or 23."

"The league is set up for offenses to score 80 points a game," said Whitsett. "Ron really struggled with that attitude and has really changed the way people look at defense in this league."

The NIFL is played indoors on an indoor-outdoor carpet laid over concrete or ice, making turf injuries and infection from cuts and scrapes as common as blocking and blitzing. In other words, a punishing game well-suited to Childs.

He still plays with the same abandon he displayed at WSU, although he admits the recuperation period after games is a bit longer.

"After some of the games I can hardly move I'm so sore," Childs said. "Everyone asks me how I've made it through my career and it's just staying in the weight room and extensive training."

Although Childs knows he changed football at WSU, he doesn't consider football to be his greatest accomplishment in Pullman.

"My greatest accomplishment was that I graduated," Childs said. "In football, we had some great coaches in Mike Zimmer and Bill Doba and they sat us down and taught us how to be a defensive squad that could win games."

Childs, who is a building contractor in the Tri-Cities, is one of four Cougs on the roster for the Fever.

The team's kicker is Drew Dunning, who Whitsett considers to be the best in the league.

Drew Dunning

The goal posts in the NIFL are only nine feet apart, placing a premium on accuracy.

Dunning, who lives in Bellevue and commutes to games and practices, has already drawn interest from several teams in the Arena League, where players can make anywhere from $40,000 to $200,000 a year.

"He's not going to kick a lot of 50- or 60-yarders," Whitsett said, "but his accuracy is amazing. He's a great kicker and a very focused individual."

Dunning, who walked-on at WSU, was a three-year starter for the Cougars beginning in 2001. He was selected All-Pac-10 in 2001 and 2003 and is the career scoring leader for WSU with 336 points. He was named first-team All-America by The Sporting News in his senior season.

Jeremy Bohannon

Safety Jeremy Bohannon, who just concluded his Cougar career in the Apple Cup victory last November, has emerged as the Fever's leading tackler.

"He's just an amazing tackler and it was a pleasant surprise to see how tough he is," Whitsett said. "He's a kid who can move on to play in Canada, the CFL or even the NFL."

Bohannon, who made a career-high 13 tackles against USC his senior season, played in 38 games for WSU before earning his first start.

Tali Ena

The team's backup quarterback is Tali Ena, who played for WSU for one season before transferring to New Mexico. Although he's a backup for the Fever, the Buffalo Bills are flying Ena in for a tryout.

He was signed by the Fever after Jason Gesser decided to play for Calgary of the CFL rather than in the Tri-Cities.

Tupo Tuupo

Two other Cougs are also in the NIFL, playing for the Everett Hawks: Tupo Tuupo and Tai Tupai.

Faafetai "Tai" Tupai

Tuupo was a starter for the WSU team that played in the Sun Bowl in 2001. Tuupo was undrafted, but played briefly for the San Diego Chargers before joining the Arena League, where he won a championship ring last season playing fullback and linebacker for the San Jose SaberCats.

Tupai, a defensive lineman, started 18 games in a Cougar career that was capped by the huge Holiday Bowl win over Texas. He is playing both defensive line and linebacker for Everett and had 10 tackles against the Wyoming Cavalry on June 4.

Scott Lunde

Receiver Scott Lunde, another Cougar who capped his career with the 2003 Holiday Bowl victory, was on the Fever roster earlier this season but is now pursuing a career in the Canadian Football League with the B.C. Lions.

Entering the second week of training camp, Lunde's turning heads and giving defensive backs fits. However, he's still considered a longshot to land a spot on the Lions' final roster -- Lunde's trying to make the team at wide receiver, rather than his more natural position of slotback. Still, his ability to catch just about everything thrown his way has impressed the B.C. coaches, with the Vancouver, Wash., native outperforming another CFL veteran released on Tuesday.

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