Seen & Heard 7/26

THE ANNUAL PAC-10 media day is set for August 2, and there's no surprise which Cougar player will be accompanying head coach Bill Doba to Los Angeles: senior linebacker Will Derting. Aside from Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, who presumably will be USC's featured player, I've got to think Derting will be the toast of the town.

He's on the watch list of virtually every national defensive award. In addition, there will be huge interest in his surgically repaired wrist. And, it' not every day that kid who grew up roping calves --- on a ranch so far off the beaten path that there was no telephone --- waltzes onto center stage.

You youngsters out there won't remember this, but back in the glory days, the conference didn't have a media day, but a media week! They called it the Skywriters' Tour. Not sure why that name, but I presume it was because the reporters were flying so much. At any rate, they made a stop at each campus and dutifully reported it all. For a football fanatic, it was a week of pure heaven.

Dates to note: Cougar players report August 6, practices begin the 7th and the season opens Thursday night, Sept. 1 against Idaho.

EN ROUTE FROM SPOKANE to Priest, Spirit or one of the other marvelous lakes in the Idaho Panhandle, there's a good Cougar story behind a little sign that's posted on the side of the highway as you enter tiny Newport, Wash. It points to "Don Ellersick Stadium," home of the Newport High Grizzlies. Don Ellersick --- not to be confused with teammate Don Ellingsen --- was a standout defensive back and receiver for Jim Sutherland's stellar Cougar teams of the late 1950s.

He earned bachelor's and master's degrees at WSU and ran a successful civil engineering firm in Northeast Washington for many years after three seasons in the NFL. Considered one of the community's greatest native sons, he was killed in an auto accident nine years ago. In addition to his honored place in Newport, he holds another unique distinction: He was drafted by three, yes 3, pro football teams --- the Rams (NFL) and Jets (then the Titans of the AFL) in 1960, and then the Vikings in the expansion draft of 1961. He played one year each with the Rams and Vikings and another with Vince Lombardi and the Packers before heading home.

WHILE ON THE TOPIC OF crimson and gray legends, Duke Washington, captain of the 1954 Cougars and one of three players to break the color barrier in WSU football, was recently inducted into the Central Washington Sports Hall of Fame based in the Tri-Cities. Duke starred at Pasco High before coming to Pullman in 1951. He gained national acclaim as a Cougar senior when he became the first black athlete to set foot in the University of Texas' Memorial Stadium. He marked the occasion with a 73-yard touchdown run that moved the student section of the stadium to a standing ovation. Duke is a retired high school teacher living in Seattle. For more on his pioneering past, click to the CF.C archive story MAKING HISTORY

AND SPEAKING OF Tri-City products who made hay on the Palouse, the newest head football coach in the Greater Spokane League is Grady Emmerson, the one-time walk-on who became a starting linebacker for the Cougars in 1999. He's taking over the helm at North Central High. Grady, from Kennewick, lettered four straight seasons at WSU, including 1997 when the Cougars earned their first trip to the Rose Bowl in many a moon.

FOR FOOTBALL COACHES, summer is the time for camps, golf and final preparations for the start of fall workouts. For Cougar assistants Ken Greene and George Yarno, however, this year brought a different twist --- all the way across the Pacific Ocean They were part of delegation of U.S. coaches and players who combined with two Japanese all-star teams earlier this month to play in that country's version of the Pro Bowl.

Among the U.S. players making the trip were former Cougars Collin Henderson, Scott Lunde, who was recently cut by the BC Lions of the CFL, Fred Shavies, Patrick Afif and Tyler Sellers. As Bud Withers of the Seattle Times explained in an interesting story about it all, the American contingent was there to practice with and tutor Japanese players. The delegation was led by Washington assistant Kent Baer, who has made 30 trips to Japan over the years to promote football.

THEY WENT UNDRAFTED but recently departed Cougar basketball standouts Thomas Kelati and Jeff Varem are still getting well deserved chances to show their stuff to the NBA. Both are playing in the NBA summer league -- Kelati with the Clippers' entry and Varem with the Cavaliers'.

SMOOTH LICENSE PLATES: The state of Washington is switching to a new digital technology to produce college, vanity and other special license plates. The reason for the switch, which means plates will now be perfectly flat, is better quality and lower cost of production. The renewal cost for Cougar plates is $30. I haven't seen one up-close yet, but rumor has it that the color is closer to red than crimson. Ouch! WSU gets a percentage from each plate sold, but I'm considering canceling my plates and increasing my annual giving to the WSU Athletic Foundation by $30 and then putting a prominent Cougar-head sticker on the back window instead.

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