Walk-on w/ great name takes long road to WSU

PULLMAN -- The cold, hard truth is this: Most walk-ons never earn a scholarship. Hardly ever wind up starting. Rarely wind up playing much, if at all. Every now and then, there are exceptions. That's what keeps the dream alive for even the most humble of walk-ons, and WSU coach Paul Wulff is willing to nurture those dreams if a young man possesses a little bit of talent and a whole lot of heart.

"There are several (walk-on) kids out there who have the mindset to be able to play at a high level," Wulff said. "They don't have the video (taped highlights) right out of their senior year of high school to prove it.

"But through work ethic and perseverance, a lot of kids can play at this level. They just don't know it, or they believe they can and other people don't.

"I've seen a lot of kids perform at a high level, and they weren't offered scholarships. I know we have a place for them."

More than a third of the 93 players on WSU's spring roster are walk-ons. Inevitably, a few of those players will fall by the wayside come autumn when a flood of scholarship recruits and a handful of new walk-ons come on board. One of the more intriguing walk-ons at Washington State is fullback and special teams player Remy Martin.

And yes, that's his real name. If he's even half as smooth as the famous French cognac of the same moniker, the Cougar Nation will sleep well.

Martin was considered for a scholarship at WSU a few years ago after he earned Alaska high school Offensive Player of the Year honors playing for former Cougar lineman Bob Garman at West High in Anchorage. Martin failed to qualify academically, however, so he headed to California's West Hills College to play two years of junior college football and basketball.

Martin, a physical specimen at 6 feet, 2 inches and 225 pounds, said Garman, as well as friends like new Cougar receiver Johnny Forzani, told him WSU was a special place and he should suit up for the Cougars. Once he arrived on campus in January, Martin saw what everyone was talking about.

"I felt like if I wasn't a Coug, I wouldn't want to be anything else," Martin said with one of his frequent smiles. "I love the atmosphere. The town loves their football team. No matter how they're doing, they're still showing love and support. I always wanted to be a Coug."

Now that he is one, Martin has been slowed the past two weeks by a knee sprain. He acknowledges that running back is one of the few positions where WSU is loaded with talent and depth, but Martin said he's confident he'll play the next two years, even if it's primarily on special teams.

"You always go in with confidence," Martin said. "You always go in (planning to come out) on top.

"You want to go out there and COMPETE. That's the most important thing to me, just to compete and to go out there and work hard every time you touch the field.

"Yeah, we're deep in the backfield, but I'll go out there and compete and come ready to play."

In that regard, Martin has made a believer out of running backs coach Steve Broussard.

"He's a competitor," Broussard said. "He doesn't like sitting out (with the knee sprain). He wants to go, but I think I need to hold him out so he can try to heal up a little bit."

Martin looks forward to charging out of the Martin Stadium tunnel this fall to play in front of tens of thousands more fans than he's ever seen at one of his games. If he's not fortunate enough to land a scholarship -- as starting outside linebacker Myron Beck and Apple Cup kicking hero Nico Grasu did after their first season with the Cougars last year -- he'll pay for the privilege to play.

Martin starred at fullback, running back and outside linebacker at West High, then served primarily as a reserve running back and tight end as a junior college freshman. He started at outside linebacker two years ago as a sophomore (he did not attend school last fall).

Martin also was a key reserve on the West Hills JC basketball team as an undersized power forward, and he considered the possibility of trying out for the Cougar basketball team.

"It crossed my mind, but I'm going to focus on one (sport)," he said. "I think about it all the time. I love basketball."

Broussard and others were quick to pick up on the fact that Martin also loves football. Broussard, giving Martin his stamp of approval, said, "He has that fullback mentality."

Good. He'll need it, with or without a scholarship. College football is a tough game played by tough men, and Martin can't wait to prove he belongs.

NOTABLE:
* Three Cougar walk ons of years past went on to earn first-team All-American honors: kicker Drew Dunning in 2003, kicker Jason Hanson in 1989 and 1991, and center Geoff Reece in 1974.

* WSU's 1998 Rose Bowl team featured five starters whose careers began as walk ons: Cory Withrow, Rian Lindell, Lee Harrison, Todd Nelson and Shawn Tims. Withrow and Lindell have gone on to long NFL careers.

* Other notable Cougar walks on over the years include Gavin Hedrick, Tim Davey, Mawuli Davis, Scott Lunde, Tomasi Kongaika, Josh Duin, 2008 starting offensive lineman Brian Danaher, current WSU co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears, and former Chicago Bears running back Ken Grandberry.

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