Seen & Heard 5/2

JEROME HARRISON MAY BE ONLY 5-foot-9 -- a fact that explains why the uber-talented Cougar running back fell to the fifth round of the NFL draft -- but he's drawing big-time attention from those now analyzing how each pro team did in restocking their rosters. Harrison, who is headed this week to the Cleveland Browns' mini-camp to start his new quest, is being universally praised as one of the best values among the 255 players taken over the weekend.

"This (Harrison) might be the steal of the draft," proclaimed the Akron Beacon Journal.

NFLexperts.com said the Browns had an outstanding draft, especially in the later rounds: "Front and center was the acquisition of running back Jerome Harrison ... A player many thought would end up drafted in the first day, the selection of Harrison could lead to the team trading oft-injured Lee Suggs."

DawgBones.com, a regular follower of the Browns, chimed in that "some people feel that if he can add a little bulk, Harrison could have a game that equates on the pro level to Kansas City Chiefs RB Priest Holmes."

Most relevant, though, are the words of Cleveland general manager Phil Savage. "We were real fortunate to get him," he said. "He's a terrific talent, and he was one of the players we did have a strong consensus on throughout the process. We thought of him as a third- or fourth-round guy based off his production."

Harrison isn't the only Cougar headed to Cleveland. Punter Kyle Basler signed a free agent deal with the Browns on Sunday. Two other Cougars also signed free agent contracts shortly after the draft ended: tight end Troy Bienemann with New Orleans and center Nick Mihlhauser with San Diego.

Mihlhauser said he was on the phone with the Chargers during the draft. They told him they might call his name in the sixth or seventh rounds, but assured him not to worry if they didn't -- a free agent offer was for sure.

Basler said Browns special teams coach Jerry Rothsberg came to his home near Olympia and worked him out a few weeks ago and then phoned about "two seconds" after the draft ended. "It was a crazy week and weekend -- I'm glad it's over, it'll about drive you nuts," Basler laughed. "Phone calls here and there, waiting to see if your name does get called, and then phone calls after that. But it was fun."

Bienemann said he didn't expect to get drafted since he was coming off a knee injury, but knew a free agent deal was coming. In fact, like Basler, it came fast -- he and the Saints agreed to terms within 20 minutes after the draft ended.

LONGTIME CF.C MESSAGE board poster "Cougrrrr" created a lengthy discussion recently when he fired up a poll to determine the single biggest and best hit in modern WSU football history. Will Derting's decleating of Notre Dame quarterback Carlyle Holiday in 2003 was the runaway winner, with Rien Long's sack of Carson Palmer in overtime in 2002 a distant second.

What was more revealing, however, was the string of comments attached to the poll. It's clear that ye crimson faithful not only pay close attention on game days, but have long memories too, because in addition to the handful of hits Cougrrrr included in his poll came a torrent of other nominations for most memorable stick.

One that attracted considerable commentary goes back to 1995, when linebacker Phillip Glover absolutely destroyed a punt returner from Montana. I must say that it in all my years of Cougar watching I don't think I've ever seen a planting quite like it. It hurt just to watch. The word obliterate would be an understatement of a description.

Other hits mentioned most often included punter Glenn Harper's emasculation of the Huskies' Danny Greene in 1983; Steve Gleason's train wreck with the Huskies' Cam Cleland in 1997; Rob Treece's blindside sack of Husky QB Tim Cowen in 1982; Sam Lightbody's destruction of a UCLA cornerback in 2002; and Shawn McWashington's game-winning block that freed up Kevin McKenzie late in the game at USC in 1997.

While I can't point to a specific hit he made that stands out like all those, if I had to vote for the Cougars' hardest hitter over my decades of watching the hands-down choice would be linebacker Mark Fields. His work in 1994, when he was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, was downright electric. Derting, in 2002, was also quite memorable, as was the work of our old buddy, All-American safety Paul Sorensen, in 1982. Let me know if you have other nominations and I'll try to mention them in a future column (I can be reached via CF.C's ez-mail box on the message boards).

SPEAKING OF MR. SORENSEN, he's putting his talking skills to good use this spring. The one-time Cougar radio color commentator is offering up insights galore on broadcasts of the Spokane Shock, the newest team in AF2, the development league of the Arena Football League. Among the players on the Shock is another old Cougar defensive back –- Billy Newman -- who was known to bring the wood in his day. Talk about embracing the new team, the Shock is averaging 10,000 fans per home game.

While on the subject of Spokane and legendary Cougars, congratulations to Mark Rypien, who last week was inducted into the state of Washington's high school athletic hall of fame. For those of you who don't go back as far as we children of the 60s and 70s, Rypien has many claims to fame in addition to being a Super Bowl MVP and first-team All-Pac-10 quarterback. Back at Shadle Park High he was an All-State performer in three –- yes, 3 -– sports: football, baseball and basketball.

During the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Yakima, Rypien lamented that in this day and age so many kids are encouraged to focus on just one sport. "The only reason I wanted to play football was to be with my buddies on the team. I was a tall, skinny kid who didn't like contact. Thank goodness I decided to play football," the Seattle Times quoted Rypien as saying.

Another well-known member of the Cougar family, offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller, was also being feted last week. He was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Football Hall of Fame. Levenseller left WSU in 1978 as one of the region's all-time great wide receivers, hauling in 121 career passes for more than 2,000 yards. His 67 catches as a junior season remains the second-best single-season effort at WSU. He played professionally for seven seasons, with stops in Oakland, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Edmonton and Calgary.

MORE SIGNS OF THE renaissance in Cougar baseball arrived over the weekend when the Cougs took 2-out-of-3 against USC and, in the process, improved their record to 29-16. That marks the most Cougar wins in a season since 1994 – and there's still four weeks to go! Freshman Jared Prince pitched the second of those victories against the Trojans and had a solo home run in the game as well. He's been nothing less than spectacular this season, hitting.426 with 44 RBI and posting a 6-1 record on the mound with a 3.8 ERA.

The Cougars play a home series with Utah Valley State this weekend before returning to Pac-10 play at Arizona on May 13-14-15.

THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO with sports or the Cougars, but I figured it might give you a chuckle. From comedian-scientist Steven Wright comes this little nugget: My mechanic told me, "I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder."

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