Michael Bumpus's Diary: Week Three

PULLMAN -- What makes a good punt returner? That's a question that I hear fairly often. Well, here is what I think makes a good returner. First and foremost, it's all the guys in the unit and your trust in them. They're the ones making the blocks and holding guys up so you can get loose. The average punt is in the air for about four seconds, so you can look down field only once or twice before it's show time.

So trust is a huge factor. If you know your guys are making things happen up ahead, you start with tremendous confidence the moment the ball is in your hands.

Staying composed is critical success factor No. 2. When 11 guys, all with harmful intentions, are running at you full speed -- well, let's just say the urge to keep an eye on them, as opposed to the ball, is mighty powerful no matter how much you trust your teammates to keep you healthy.

Keeping your cool is key because a split second of lost concentration can mean big trouble, both when the ball is coming down and in those first few steps after you catch it when bodies are flying all around you. This is where practice makes perfect. When you do this over and over, it can become almost second nature. That leads to a comfort level that allows for maximum focus during crunch time.

The third thing you must have is confidence that you can do the job and do it well. Period. You're kind of on an island out here, with all eyes on you the second the ball leaves the punter's foot. My first punt return as a Cougar, against Colorado at Qwest Field in Seattle there were about 56,000 pairs of eyes on me -- it was probably one of the most nerve racking experiences of my life.

Once the ball is in your hands, though, you've just got to be creative and follow your blocks. I am very grateful for how hard the guys on our punt return unit work. If it wasn't for them, those long returns that made the SportsCenter highlights and the evening news never would have been possible. Thanks guys!

OK, NOW ON TO A couple of other quick questions that were posted for me on the Cougfan.com message boards.

The best corners I faced last season? In my opinion the best corners we went up against were the guys from Arizona. They were relentless. They played hard and hit hard as well. I think one of them (Antoine Cason) is an All-America candidate this season. They were very disciplined and tested our receiving corps early in the season.

As for when I started my career, my mom wouldn't let me play football until I was in high school. She said I was too skinny and worried that I would get hurt.

My best friend on the team? When you're around so many cool guys it's impossible to pick just one.

But I do have a good group of friends: Greg Prator (a great deep threat), Tyron Brackenridge (a feisty defensive back), Jerome Harrison (no description needed), plus Odell Howard, Alex Teems, Benny Ward and the new kid on the block, Michael Willis. These are the guys I spend most of my spare time with, and I can't forget my boy, Marty Martin.

Thanks for your time and attention, Coug fans. As always, toss your questions up on the message boards and I'll try to get to as many as I can in future entries.

And remember: Start making plans now to attend our opener in Pullman on Thursday, Sept. 1, and then our Seattle game against Grambling State on Sept. 17.

Michael Bumpus is a sophomore receiver and return man from Culver City, Calif., where he was a first-team "Best in the West" pick by the Long Beach Press-Telegram. As a WSU freshman in 2004, he set a school record for punt return yardage and earned a place on The Sporting News' Pac-10 All-Freshman Team. Along with defensive end Mkristo Bruce, he graciously volunteered to lend CF.C readers a window unto the world of pre-season Cougar football preparation with a weekly diary.

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