Shawn Deeds came to Washington State at a time when every other prep quarterback prospect was turning away, scared off, no doubt, by the presence of an imposing young man from Walla Walla who had already established himself as the future of Cougar football.
He stayed and waited, while others fled. He played, albeit briefly, when no one else was available. And then he waited again - patiently, quietly and maturely - while those around him whined like spoiled little brats.
For the better part of five college football seasons, Shawn Deeds has stood on the WSU sidelines, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound island of stability in the threatening, stormy seas of controversy that have too often washed over the program and its quarterback situation.
But Saturday, against Stanford, Shawn Deeds will take his calming influence and upbeat attitude into WSU’s huddle once more.
Call it justice and rejoice in knowing that not all nice guys finish last
“Shawn Deeds is one of the best people I’ve ever been around,” Price said earlier this week, after announcing that the fifth-year senior will share quarterback duties with redshirt freshman Ryan Leaf Saturday when WSU closes its home season with a 3:30 p.m. matchup against Stanford in Martin Stadium.
“His leadership has been tremendous. He’s helped every young quarterback that has gone into the game instead of him. He has been there to support them and help them. He is the ideal team player.”
And, Price is hoping, the perfect bromide for the upheaval created by his decision earlier this week to bench starter Chad Davis for the rest of the season because of his “negative and unsupportive attitude.”
Price has said both Deeds and Leaf will play extensively in WSU’s last two games.
Leaf, a gifted, but brash, talent from Great Falls, Mont., is the future of the program, and no one understands that fact - or accepts it - as completely as Deeds.
“Who starts really doesn’t matter,” said Deeds, who signed with the Cougars out of North Kitsap High School in February of 1991, apparently unconcerned that just four months earlier Drew Bledsoe had been handed the reins of Price’s spread passing offense for as long as he cared to stay around.
“Sure, it’s the last home game and it’s my senior year. Everyone’s heard it and everyone knows it. But (starting) isn’t that big a deal to me. Just the opportunity to get out there again is going to be great - even if it isn’t for that long.
“I’ve talked to Coach Price and I realize that Ryan is going to get the majority of the snaps and that’s fine. I completely understand. I have two games left. Ryan has three years left, so that’s not really a problem with me.
“I’m sure not going to go out and demand playing time or anything.”
Deeds, who was the only high school quarterback Price was able to sign during the Bledsoe Era, had his 15 minutes of fame as a redshirt sophomore in 1993.
He replaced Mike Pattinson after the senior starter broke his collarbone in the seventh game of the season against California and started in a 9-6 loss at Arizona the following week.
Deeds threw for 199 yards against a Wildcats defense that was among the best in the nation. But he was intercepted twice and did not get the Cougars into the end zone.
The next week, junior college transfer Chad DeGrenier was promoted to the starting job and Deeds finished the year as a backup.
He did not play a down last fall as Davis, a transfer from Oklahoma, led the Cougars to an 8-4 finish that included an Alamo Bowl win over Baylor. But he remained upbeat on the sidelines, helping signal in plays and earning even more of his head coach’s respect.
“To my knowledge, he’s never been anything but a positive influence on our program,” Price said. “If he has been negative, he’s kept it to himself or his friends or his family.”
And lest anyone think there might be the least bit of friction between Deeds and Leaf as they prepare to share snaps against Stanford, consider what Leaf said about Deeds last winter when he was making some thinly veiled threat to transfer if he didn’t get a chance to unseat Davis during spring drills:
“Shawn Deeds, he’s probably my best friend here,” Leaf said. “He’s just a great guy. He helps me out every time he sees me doing something wrong with my mechanics. If I’m throwing down at the other end of the field and he sees me, he’ll say, ‘Get your elbow up.’ Or, ‘You’re not following through, you’re falling back - I’m not trying to hound you, I’m just trying to help you,’ and I go, ‘I know, I know.’
“I couldn’t do what he’s done. I think it’s real big-hearted of him to step back like he has and say, ‘I’ve had my chance, it’s over and I’m going to get my free education.”’
Deeds recalls his brief fling as a starter and the immediacy of his demotion with only a tinge of bitterness.
“It wasn’t easy,” he admitted, “but I swallowed my pride. I felt an obligation to Coach Price and his program and I was not going to turn my back on it. At the time, I figured if I could do anything, I was going to stay and help the younger kids out that came in after me.”
As it turned out, Leaf was wrong when he suggested it was over for Shawn Deeds.
Fate has dropped another chance in the hands of WSU’s most loyal soldier.
With only two games left in his career, Deeds knows that this last opportunity won’t lead to anything. Yet, it mean’s everything.
“For the last year and a half, I’ve become more of a coach than a player,” he said. “And now I’ve got to become a player again.
“It’s a good feeling to know that I’m going to have the chance to get back in there and contribute. I just have to try and grab what little bit of time I have left and have a little bit of fun with it.”
Deeds admits, however, there is a downside to this otherwise storybook ending to his football career - the demotion of Davis, a close friend, and all of the turmoil it has created.
“It kind of bugs me,” he said of the unseemly situation. “I’m not saying Coach Price is wrong, or Chad is wrong, or anyone on the team is wrong, it’s nothing like that.
“But it’s hard to sit back and say, ‘Gosh, I’m getting playing time, great,’ when you don’t like the situation that had to come about just for me to get the chance.
“If I had any control over it, it never would have happened. I would have been content not playing another down of football to have avoided the situation.”
Call it justice, as twisted as it might seem to Deeds, and rejoice in knowing that not all nice guys finish last.
Some just take their time - as long as five years, in the case of Shawn Deeds - working themselves to the top.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 Photos (2 Color)
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