Coming to the sideline, his coach said, he looked like a battered Rocky Marciano.
Teammates said his appearance mirrored that of Rocky Balboa.
And every second the blood dripped from his forehead, and onto his Oregon State uniform – with television cameras focused on the bloodied visage – center Alex Linnenkohl soaked up the attention.
“I was joking, ‘Yo, Mick, cut me,’ ” said Linnenkohl, alluding to the in-the-corner scene from the popular movie “Rocky.”
There’s something basic to football about a skull-cracking offensive lineman who can not only dish out punishment in the trenches, but can take a blow or two as well and keep on ticking.
Durability and reliability have never been issues for Linnenkohl, the Capital High School graduate and Beavers senior who is getting his fair share of attention for the 2011 NFL draft next spring.
Barring a late-week setback, Linnenkohl is expected to make his team-best 33rd consecutive start Saturday night against Washington in Seattle.
“Alex has been a terrific player for the Beavers,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “He’s a very, very tough individual. He’s kind of the quarterback for our line.”
Rewind to last Saturday night in the desert and the second half of Oregon State’s 29-27 victory over previously undefeated and then ninth-ranked Arizona.
The Beavers had the ball close to the Wildcats’ goal line in the third quarter. Linnenkohl charged ahead to block defensive tackle Lolomana Mikaele. What followed was a head-on collision fierce enough that the helmet fastener for Linnenkohl’s chin strap was broken off.
In a split second, Linnenkohl’s helmet flew off – right before another Arizona defender came in head-first in an effort to stop running back Jacquizz Rodgers from scoring a touchdown.
The on-rushing linebacker’s facemask caught Linnenkohl squarely on the bridge of his nose and his forehead, opening a nasty gash.
“I put my hand up there. I saw the blood,” Linnenkohl said.
Other linemen saw it, too, and motioned for backup center Josh Andrews to come on the field for the next snap – but Linnenkohl yelled for him to stay on the sideline.
“I figured I could slip by, and stay in a few more plays,” Linnenkohl said. “We were in the red zone.”
Two plays later, quarterback Ryan Katz scored on a 1-yard keeper, a play on which Linnenkohl not only lost his helmet again while blocking but also rolled his ankle in the pile at the line of scrimmage.
By the time Linnenkohl picked his helmet off the ground, an official spotted the bloody mess on his face, and ordered the senior to get off the field.
“Kind of looked like one of those Rocky Marciano pictures coming to his corner,” Riley said.
Oregon State athletic trainers bandaged the wound, wrapped his forehead with tape and gave Linnenkohl a headband to wear. The helmet was fixed, too – in time for the Beavers’ next offensive series.
“Half of his face was bleeding. His jersey is full of blood. And the whole time, he was smiling – it was old-school,” said Bill Linnenkohl, Alex’s father and an NCAA Division II All-American linebacker for the University of Puget Sound in the mid-1970s. “He’s a lunch-pail type of guy.”
He’s also a guy who makes sure the lunch pail is full – literally – for him and his blocking mates.
Linnenkohl lives in an off-campus condominium with a few of his teammates. He has a knack for cooking, enough that his father bought him a set of chef knives off a television infomercial, as well as a first-rate barbecue.
“He’s a coupon-omist,” his father said.
“I do like a good deal,” Linnenkohl said about looking for grocery bargains when he shops to feed eight to 10 of his teammates. “I only took one credit (at school last summer), so I spent quite a bit of time firing up the grill. Neighbors, teammates, defensive line guys would brainstorm (over meals).”
Usually, $3 per player was enough to pay for a full-course meal, Linnenkohl said.
“I like to mess around with cooking,” he said. “But I like to eat more.”
Jake Locker (bruised quadriceps) practiced more Wednesday than earlier this week. He’s still affected by the bruise and chest cold that bothered him against Arizona State, but he’s “probable” to play against Oregon State, UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. Not so for left guard Erik Kohler (mononucleosis), who has rejoined the team but hasn’t practiced; or receiver Devin Aguilar (hip flexor), who has done light individual work only. ... Tight end Chris Izbicki (back) got dinged up early in practice and his status is uncertain.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org