TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2009, 2:19 P.M.

WSU’s Mackay battles back

Washington State quarterback Kevin Lopina looks for running room as Joe Eppele blocks Cory Mackay, left. Special to  (Tyler Tjomsland Special to / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State quarterback Kevin Lopina looks for running room as Joe Eppele blocks Cory Mackay, left. Special to (Tyler Tjomsland Special to / The Spokesman-Review)

We talked with Washington State football coach Paul Wulff today concerning the injuries suffered by freshman Cory Mackay (No. 6 in photo above) in an automobile accident while headed home last week. The unedited version of the S-R story is on the link, so read on.

• Before we get to the story, I enjoyed the comments a couple of you had about the NY Times link I passed along this morning. It never ceases to amaze me how well you folks catch things. Someone pointed out one of the inaccuracies in the piece and it concerns Romeo Pellum. The cornerback was suspended indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules and, while on suspension, was cited by Pullman police for driving without a valid operator's license. The driving citation had nothing to do with the original suspension. As we wrote in our spring summary story, Pellum will not be back in the fall and is expected to transfer. ... Now on to the story about Cory Mackay ...

PULLMAN – There are three times each year Paul Wulff really worries: When his players are driving home at Christmas break, spring break and the end of the school year.

"It's always been an issue with me," the Washington State University football coach said Tuesday. "We always have a team meeting before all those. It's one of the main things I say every single time, I say, 'guys, drive safe.'

"It's a standard thing for me because it's on my mind. It's on my mind when they come back to campus and when they leave campus as a group."

Wulff's worst fears were realized last week when one of his players, defensive lineman Cory Mackay, was involved in a single-car accident en route to Redmond.

The 6-foot-4, 257-pound freshman, who redshirted in the fall but had put himself in the mix for a starting spot with a strong spring, had finished his first-year finals Thursday and, like hundreds of other Washington State students, was headed home that evening.

He reportedly dosed off at the wheel of his Nissan pickup just west of Washtucna a little after 5 p.m. The truck rolled and Mackay, who was wearing his seatbelt, suffered a spinal injury that necessitated three hours of surgery Friday at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center to fuse fractured vertebrae.

Mackay's father, Don, told the Seattle Times the damage to the spinal was "minimal" and Cory has "tingling" in one leg.

"When they push him, he can feel it, probably kind of an electric-shock-like feeling," Don Mackay said. "So he's encouraged by that."

"I've talked with (Don) three times," Wulff said. "As they've gathered information on his injury and the severity of it, the prognosis of it, I think they're being very optimistic and they're very positive about being able to walk and be a normal person again.

"And I think Cory is very driven to be back on the football field again some day."

But the nature of Mackay's injuries – the spinal cord was not severed but suffered trauma from the bruising and stretching in the accident along with the swelling that occurs after the surgery, according to Wulff – means he won't be back in pads in the near future.

"My only feelings have been for him and his family," Wulff said. "To be quite honest, and I know this sounds strange, I haven't even thought more than a second about the football loss of it for our team. I just haven't. ... It's not the most important thing, so I haven't let myself go there."

Though Mackay has.

"Quite frankly, (Cory) wants to get back on his feet," Don told the Times. "He doesn't want people pre-assuming that he might not. He's in good spirits. He says, 'I'm going to beat this thing and I want to start working on it right away.' "

Cougar assistant coach Mike Levenseller was in the Puget Sound area Friday and he visited Mackay at Harborview that day. Defensive line coach Malik Roberson rerouted a flight home to stop by. And teammates, including Logwone Mitz, who also lives in Redmond, have visited often.

"The dad said they've already been extremely surprised with how much support they've gotten so quick," Wulff said. "It sure helps their spirits."

And they all want one thing.

"Right now we're just hoping for the first step," Wulff said. "And the first step is literally taking a step."


• If you want to send well wishes to Cory Mackay, the address is:

Cory Mackay (patient)

Harborview Medical Center

325 Ninth Avenue

Seattle WA 98104-2499

• You can also send an email by clicking here and following the links.


• That's it for now. We'll be back as events warrant, which means we'll be back tomorrow more than likely. The run of news doesn't seem to be slowing down. Until then …

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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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