Where is the greatest Cougar name now?

AT HOME IN Monterey, Calif., Shaumbe Wright-Fair calls himself "the local boy done good." In the lore of Washington State football, he's the running back who sprinted through the snow to 194 yards and three touchdowns in the historic 1992 Apple Cup. Last month he was dubbed by CF.C editors as the player with the best name in school history. Which begged the question: Where is he now?

The short answer is this: He's a police officer and newly minted law school grad who is married with three kids. By itself, that's great. But when you consider Shaumbe's background as a kid --- severe poverty, broken home, bad habits, gangs all around -- then the scope of that answer takes on a stature of its own.

So when news arrives of his award for having the best name in the 115 years football has been played on the Palouse, Wright-Fair is non-plussed.

"Best name," he laughed when contacted by phone at his home. "What an honor!"

Considering the competition for the award -- Samoa Samoa and Kyle Stiffarm, for instance -- it ain't all bad.

Of course, such trivia pales compared to the achievements Wright-Fair actually worked to make happen. His first name -- which traces to Africa and translates to "strength of a lion" -- would suggest destiny was fulfulled.

And it was all kick-started by a trip to a school the teenage Wright-Fair thought was located in Washington, D.C.

All he knew back then in the late '80s was that when Dennis Erickson's staff at WSU came calling, he had an opportunity to shed the image of a troubled youth. It's a time period about which he will only say, "I was a kid, and most kids without much supervision and direction get mixed up in stuff."

He couldn't have guessed that he would go on to be the No. 1 rusher in the Pac-10 his senior year, 1992, and that he would conclude his career as the most prolific Cougar running back -- 3,804 all-purpose yards and 26 TDs) -- this side of Rueben Mayes and Steve Broussard. Nearly 20 years after his last carry as a Coug, he remains No. 3 in every major career category for a WSU running back.

Upon landing in Spokane for his official recruiting visit to Pullman, he was greeted by a graduate assistant in an old gray station wagon -- and a snowstorm.

As the car crept down the highway behind a snow plow, he thought to himself, "'What am I doing here?' I'd seen snow before, but this was outrageous!"

Fortunately, the boy from California got his footing fast. It wasn't just a matter of survival, but of pride, too.

"For us guys from California, the worst thing you could do was fall in the snow," he said. "You fall, you're ridiculed. You had to stay on your feet."

He did far more than that in the 1992 Apple Cup, famously nicknamed the Snow Bowl. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe led a 29-point third quarter scoring blitz to help the Cougars defeat the Rose Bowl-bound Dawgs, 42-23 -- in the face of a negative 18-degree wind chill.

It's one of Wright-Fair's fondest memories of his time in crimson. When he woke up to a whiteout, his first inclination was to go back to bed. He didn't think he would be able to run on the stuff, that his cuts wouldn't be smooth, that quarterbacks wouldn't be able to throw in the snow.

"But when the game started, we seniors were all like 'let's go and do this one last time.' We were running our basic zone plays and passing routes, and we could do no wrong.

"Drew threw all over the field, guys were colliding all over the place ... Everything was working for us, and practically nothing was working for them. It was great."

Describing his time in Pullman, Wright-Fair is succinct: "Washington State was fantastic.

"The fans are so loyal and the history is so rich. Even though the Palouse is tucked away, you still get a chance to compete at the highest level in college. You play Ohio State, Notre Dame, schools that are competing for a national championship."

After graduating from WSU with a degree is psychology, Wright-Fair spent a year with the Detroit Lions, and then moved on to the San Francisco 49ers the following season, but was released.

After a short stint with Kansas City, the rusher known for doing back flips in full uniform and pads at WSU was selected as the No. 1 pick of the 1995 World League of American Football draft and headed to Germany.

After one year with the Rhein Fire, Wright-Fair signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, but was released shortly after camp opened.

"I knew I had the skill set to play, but the opportunities to get on film and show what I could do weren't presenting themselves.

"I didn't want to be 32 or 35 and all I have is my résumé saying I can run fast and jump high."

He returned to California with his wife, Kelly, his high-school sweetheart whom he married the summer before his junior year at WSU. Now he's a 14-year veteran with the City of Monterey Police Department. He's a motorcycle patrolman.

But his next career turn may be indoors. Wright-Fair earned his law degree through night classes at Monterey College of Law and plans to take the California State Bar.

Football, however, is still in the mix. He helps out at his alma mater, Monterey High, and gives talks at Herman Edwards' local football camp.

"My reputation precedes me," he said. "I'm the local boy done good. People know me as the kid who grew up, went out of the community, traveled the world and played some ball."

And his legacy may continue. Oldest son Shaumbe, a high-school junior, only played a year of ball, but younger sons Matthew, 12, and Christopher, 10, have expressed interest in following in their father's large footsteps.

But Dad is in no hurry to get them onto the field.

"I want to give them some time," he said. "Right now, they're playing baseball. It's a lot kinder to the body. They'll play when they really want to play."

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