Seen & Heard 1/23

NO MATTER HOW YOU slice it, Cougar defensive end Adam Braidwood is destined to be drafted. His status in NFL eyes --- free agent or late-round pick up --- will likely hinge on his off-season combine performance. But up north, this native of Delta, B.C., looks to be a first-rounder and certainly no less than a second round choice when the Canadian Football League starts drafting. Analysts at say the 6-5, 267-pounder has some work to do but agree "there's a huge upside here."

The rap on him, they say, is that he needs to be more aggressive, isn't especially fast and could use some added bulk. Meanwhile, the NFL draft gurus at say this about Braidwood: "Perhaps the best Canadian prospect in the senior class, Braidwood could be a Day 2 NFL selection if he shows well in post-season workouts."

Braidwood will be the second Cougar defensive end from British Columbia wooed in recent years by both the CFL and the NFL. Rob Meier, who just completed his sixth year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, was the No. 1 overall pick in the CFL draft as a WSU junior in 1999.

SPEAKING OF THE CFL and defensive ends, one-time Cougar sack-master D.D. Acholonu (2000-03) recently signed with the Montreal Alouettes after two seasons on the fringes of the NFL as a linebacker. In 2004, he was on the Houston Texans' practice squad and on the active roster for one week. Call it rose-colored glasses, but I see a couple of seasons of heavy-duty work in Canada earning D.D. a one-way ticket back to the NFL.

Another one of my all-time favorite Cougars, safety Billy Newman (1998-2001) is getting back into uniform. He was one of the first two players signed by the Spokane Shock for their inaugural season in Arena League 2, the farm system for the indoor Arena Football League. Billy, a Cougar co-captain and honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick in 2001, is No. 6 on WSU's career tackles list. He had a free agent tryout with the Tennessee Titans following his WSU career and is now and assistant coach under old Cougar teammate Grady Emmerson at Spokane's North Central High. The Shock open the season March 31.

A Cougar walk-on quarterback of that same era, Renton's Dayton "Matt" Dennison, just signed with one of the Shocks' competitors, the Everett Hawks.

AND WHILE ON THE SUBJECT of indoor football and tenacious ballplayers, here's the latest on two Cougar legends --- one who's winding down his career and another who's trying to restart his.

Jason Gesser, after an injury-marred season with Calgary of the CFL, has signed with the Arena Football League's Utah Blaze. "Jason is a strong, intelligent quarterback ... we expect him to compete for playing time immediately," said Blaze head coach and general manager Danny White. He spent 2003 with the Tennessee Titans and then sat out 2004 after being released by the NFL club.

Meanwhile, one of the all-time hardest hitters -- Palouse Posse captain and linebacker Ron Childs (1991-94) -- just signed on for another season with the Tri-Cities Fever of the National Indoor Football League. He led the Fever to the NIFL championship last season. "I am excited about playing another year. I am ready for some more football. I am fortunate to be able to play at this level at my age, so why not," said the former Kansas City Chief and New Orleans Saint. "I want another championship."

ONE OF CHILDS' TEAMMATES on the Cougars' 1992 Copper Bowl club, Super Bowl-bound Robbie Tobeck, was recently picked by the Seattle Times to its all-time Seahawks team. Another Cougar, All-American corner Marcus Trufant, didn't make the elite list of Seattle's best since the franchise was launched 30 years ago, but I'm confident it's because he's only been in the NFL for three seasons. And didn't ya like the way he shutdown Carolina's Steve Smith in Sunday's NFC championship game?

In other NFL Cougar news, Bob Bratkowski, a WSU receiver from 1975-77 and later offensive coordinator under Mike Price from 1989-91, had another high-scoring year as OC for the resurgent Cincinnati Bengals. In fact, The Sporting News recently opined that Bratkowski is one of, if not THE, best offensive coordinators in the NFL.

Another Cougar player from the mid-1970s, all-conference offensive lineman Robin Ross, was recently named head coach of the Western Washington Vikings and one of his first hires was Josh Shavies, the Cougar tight end/defensive lineman who spent the last two years as a graduate assistant at WSU. Ross spent much of the last decade as an assistant at Oregon and Oregon State. He joins a fellow Cougar high atop the WWU athletic department --- long-time Viking head basketball coach Brad Jackson was a standout point guard in Pullman for Marv Harshman and George Raveling.

ONE OF WSU'S MOST FAMOUS graduates, sportscasting icon Keith Jackson, 77, looks like he's going to hang up his mic when his contract with ABC expires in May. And this time it may be for good. You may recall that he retired a few years ago and then was cajoled back to the booth on the condition that he only work games played on the West Coast. After calling the USC-Texas Rose Bowl bowl contest, Jackson came close to making his own call definitive. "I'd say there is a very good possibility of becoming a shop steward for the International Porchsetters Union," he told reporters. Earlier in the week he said, "I can see the end of the road. This might be my last year. It's nice to hear people tell me they want me to keep doing this. It's better than hearing, Hey, you old goat! Why don't you retire?"

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