ELLENSBURG – For all the problems Andy Roof got himself into during his time at Washington State, the big offensive lineman doesn’t blame his former school for kicking him out, the media for making him a focal point or the culture that has made Pullman a well-known party town.
Time and distance have given Roof enough of a buffer to realize the problem: himself.
“I made some mistakes. It’s on me. It was my fault,” said Roof, still wearing some of his old WSU gear on the worn-down practice field at Division II Central Washington. “It’s sad that it went down the way it did. It gave me a chance for a new beginning.”
With only one season of college eligibility remaining, the one-time starter at Washington State is attempting to redeem himself at Central Washington, trying for one last season of football without the off-field drama.
His name was sullied by his actions at Washington State, a series of mistakes that included alcohol violations, suspensions from school, and eventually a dismissal from the Cougars’ football program and university following an arrest on investigation of assault in spring 2008.
Those problems ruined what was a promising start to his college career. Roof played as a freshman and was a starter by his sophomore season. At 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, Roof had the bulk that could catch the eye of the pros.
But his issues with alcohol and a short temper kept Roof a constant companion of the Pullman police. He missed the 2007 season after being suspended for a drunken driving arrest to go along with two previous minor-in-possession violations.
Then came the final strike at WSU. In April 2008, Roof was arrested for investigation of assault, accused of head-butting a man at a party. The WSU student conduct board then kicked Roof out of school just before the start of the 2008 season.
Roof insists those problems are behind him now, even though he moved from one small-town school to another.
“I just don’t engage in the same actions I did in Pullman. My attitude is different,” Roof said. “I have to learn everything the hard way. Making mistakes like that, you can be told 100 times ‘If you do this these are the consequences,’ but you don’t really realize it until it happens, the magnitude of your actions.
“It was a series of things, and I knew it was a series of things I shouldn’t be doing, culminating in that one event. It kind of got blown out of proportion at the time, but it’s still my fault.”
Before Roof was welcomed at Central Washington, coach Blaine Bennett did his homework. His staff spoke with the coaches at Washington State and the Pullman police as well. Then they laid out a plan for Roof to follow in Ellensburg to avoid going down a similar path to what he followed at WSU.
“We tried to be very thorough,” Bennett said. “We put a plan together when he did get here. He had some advocates at WSU that spoke highly of his personality and who he was as a person. He has done an excellent job. He hasn’t had any issues since he’s been here. He’s been here over a year and been excellent on and off the field.
“He’s one of those prime examples of those kids getting a second chance.”
Roof will be the starting left guard when Central Washington opens its season tonight at Mesa State in Grand Junction, Colo. His lack of game action the last two seasons is the only concern for Bennett, but Roof is helped by an experienced group around him.
And he isn’t shy about promoting the talent on the Wildcats roster. CWU is preseason No. 14 in the country.
“I think this program is the best program in Washington right now,” Roof said. “I think if we played Eastern (Washington) we’d win. I think we’d kick … WSU. … I think UW, them and WSU are pretty comparable, I think we’d beat them, too. I really feel that way.”
Yet Roof still pulls for his former teammates in Pullman, appreciative for those who gave him multiple chances to straighten himself out. It took getting away from Washington State for Roof to fully grasp his mistakes.
“I’ll always be a Coug. I’m just a Wildcat also,” Roof said. “It’s nobody’s fault what happened over there. That was on me. All the players and coaches over there stood behind me.”
8/29at Mesa State6 p.m.
9/3at Minn. Duluth5 p.m.
9/12West Texas A&M1 p.m.
9/19Azusa Pacific1 p.m.
9/26at Idaho State2:35 p.m.
10/3Dixie State1 p.m.
10/10at Humboldt St.6 p.m.
10/17vs. W. Oregon*6 p.m.
10/24Humboldt St.1 p.m.
10/31at Dixie State12:05 p.m.
11/7at W. Oregon6 p.m.
* at Qwest Field in Seattle