PULLMAN - Micah Hannam has started every game he has played in the past four years at Washington State, and he's made the Pacific-10 Conference All-Academic first team three years running.
Obviously, “loser” is the last term anyone would ever use to describe Hannam. Still, no player in the 107-year history of WSU football has started in more losses than Hannam, a four-year starter at offensive right tackle.
Hannam has had the misfortune of playing on teams that have lost more games in a four-year period (38) than any other in WSU history. That can be blamed largely on poor play but also on longer seasons, and the fact that Hannam has fought through injuries, job competition and the mental wear and tear of all that losing to start in all but one of WSU’s 48 games the past four years. (He would have started in all 48 if not for the concussion that forced him to sit out one game this season.)
“Takes a lot of toughness,” said WSU coach Paul Wulff.
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Only 11 players remain from the team Wulff inherited when he replaced Bill Doba as coach after the 2007 season. Most of the Cougars’ 20 seniors are backup players.
On Saturday, most if not all of those seniors will play football for the last time in their lives when they try to salvage what they can from a 2-9 season and, hopefully, prevent arch-rival Washington from going to a bowl game. Versus televises the Apple Cup from Pullman at 4 p.m.
Hannam and three other Doba-era survivors recently reminisced about their college careers.
All four were quick to mention the good times, but they also acknowledged the tough times.
“A big part of it is just battling through adversity, because I’m going to face it again in my life and I’ve faced a lot of it here,” said Hannam, who attended Peninsula High School in Gig Harbor.
“I’ve been there, done that. I know how to handle it.”
“I feel like you learn more as a person when you lose games like this and go through struggles,“ said Kevin Kooyman, a starting defensive end from Tahoma High in Maple Valley. “The last three seasons, it just makes you become a better person and understand that hard work does pay off in the end.”
Standout punter Reid Forrest and backup center/offensive guard Chris Prummer originally went to WSU without football scholarships.
Their perspectives on the change in coaching staffs differed from those of Hannam and Kooyman, who have been on scholarship all along.
“Just the atmosphere of communication with the coaching staff I’ll go around town, you see the coaches everywhere,” said Forrest, an Ephrata High graduate. “You know them, you know their kids, you know their wives. It’s just a great family atmosphere.”
“A good change has been getting people – how do I describe it? – more focused on what they’re doing,” said Prummer, who starred at Liberty High in Issaquah. “Keeping people out of trouble within the community, I think, is a big deal.
“We have a reputation to try to uphold out there. I think our current staff is doing a better job of getting people that take care of their business off the field, and that correlates to doing well on the field. Coach Lovat (strength coach Darin Lovat) does a great job of building a lot of discipline.”
Hannam credits the new staff with getting players “more involved in the community,” but Hannam admits he wasn’t a big fan of trash pick-up duty.
“Doba and Wulff definitely have different styles of coaching,” Kooyman said. “You’ve just got to take what the coaches give you.
“I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to say. I don’t really want to say anything. I’ll leave that as ‘no comment.’ ”
All four players said some of their best and/or worst college memories revolve around the Apple Cup games with Washington.
“The Cougars have always been my favorite team,” Forrest said, “so the years we’ve lost the Apple Cup would probably be the worst memory because I just can’t stand losing to the Huskies.”
“I didn’t play at all last year (due to a knee injury after the season opener), but getting shut out at their place was just heartbreaking,” Kooyman said.
Hannam and Prummer said the 2007 win at Washington, when Alex Brink found Brandon Gibson for a game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute, provided their favorite college memory.
“I remember I was pass blocking,” Hannam said, “and I just kinda threw the guy to the side, and I saw the ball out of the corner of my eye go up, and I just saw Brandon Gibson wide open, grabbing the ball and going for the touchdown for the win.
“I’ll never forget that.”
“Can’t get any better than that,” Prummer said.
“Growing up, my whole family, they’re Husky fans. When it came time to go off to school, I thought about going there because their med school is very, very good. A couple of my friends went there and gave me a bunch of crap, so it’s fantastic to beat them.”