For his senior picture at Shadle Park High School, Shane Doyle wore - and it kills him to admit it - a University of Washington sweat shirt.
“My mom bought me a lot of Husky stuff back then,” he said. “I don’t know why.” His mother does.
“To be perfectly honest,” she said, “I didn’t watch college football. I couldn’t tell the difference between the Huskies and the Cougars.”
But Kay Doyle was a quick study when it counted - when colleges began wooing her son to play on their football teams. Oregon was on him strong.
Oregon State, Utah, even UCLA looked hard. And suddenly, something distinguished Washington State University from every other school. The area code.
If Washington State’s improbable return to the Rose Bowl after 67 seasons has, as coach Mike Price maintains, captured an entire nation’s imagination, no precinct has been gripped as tightly as Spokane. Shane Doyle’s town.
Along with linebacker Steve Gleason and guard Cory Withrow, the senior defensive end has given the Cougar football team the most prominent Spokane presence it has had in two decades. There are more alums along I-5 and pockets of Cougar mania across the West, but what Doyle knows first-hand is that in his hometown, everyone has been riding high for a month.
“I went back to Shadle when I was home over Thanksgiving break,” he said. “I was there for 4 hours. Teachers were coming up and hugging me. It’s unbelievable how happy everybody is.”
And the center of that happiness just might be the Doyle home on West Providence.
This is where games were analyzed, dreams hatched, decisions made. This is where Shane Doyle’s modesty gets tested, what with his trophies and honors prominently displayed. This is where his younger brothers Mike, Matt and Danny bask in the reflected glory when they’re not in a gym or on a field trying to manufacture some of their own. This is where Mike and Kay Doyle transplanted a California family and turned it into a Cougar family.
This - not Pasadena - is where the Doyles will watch the 1998 Rose Bowl.
It’s a conspiracy of circumstances, both logistical and financial. And it bothers Mike Doyle not a whit, or so he claims.
“Sitting in front of the TV, I’m going to be there,” he said, watching Matt muscle inside for a basket during a recent sophomore squad game at Shadle. “My spirit, heart and fire is going to be in Pasadena.
“It really doesn’t hurt, but I do get tired of having to say we’re not going. It’s just too expensive for the five of us. For the Apple Cup, just mom and dad went and there were people willing to give my wife and I the money to go (to the Rose Bowl), but we just couldn’t do it to the kids again. If we can’t go as a family, we’ll have a hell of a party at home.”
It’s already been a hell of a party.
Mike Doyle saved up all his annual leave - he works at the Rosewood postal station on North Monroe - and used it the last five weeks of the football season, making the recreation of enjoying WSU’s stretch drive into a full-time job.
“He said he had a feeling we were going to the Rose Bowl - said it the first couple weeks of the season and every week after that,” said Shane. “I couldn’t believe he told me that. Now look at us - we’re going. He always said he had a plan - except that now he doesn’t have the money or the time off to go to the Rose Bowl.”
He’s not the only one in those straits.
Doyle’s fiance, Amy Yeoman, will also watch the game at the Doyle home. High school sweethearts who became engaged last May and plan a July wedding, she and Shane had hatched their own plan to get her to the game.
They were going to elope.
“Almost,” admitted Shane. “We were this close. But her parents and my parents said, ‘Hey, wait a minute.’ And finally we decided it was … what? It was morally right to wait.”
Mike Doyle was flabbergasted - but not about the eloping part.
“He told you about that?” Mike asked. “I’m very gosh-darned surprised.”
True, reporters have come to understand that Shane Doyle hasn’t started on the defensive line for three years now because he’s the best quote on the team. Leon Bender, who lines up next to him on the defensive line, is all-world in the interview room. Even Doyle’s father can fill up a notebook.
“But I remember one conversation he had with Bud Nameck on the pregame radio show,” said Mike. “It was like pulling teeth. I have a hard time digging stuff out of him sometimes.”
That’s probably why Shane Doyle is easily the most overlooked of the Cougars’ 22 starters, at least relative to length of service. He is neither glib nor self-promoting, but he is a good football player and has been for as long as Spokane has known him, which is going on 13 years.
Mike and Kay Doyle grew up in northern San Diego County - their meeting and marriage straight out of Ripley’s.
“My mother passed away,” remembered Kay, “and then my father started dating Mike’s mother. Through them I met Mike. Eventually, my father married his mother so we’re actually stepbrother and sister.
“At least we don’t have a problem deciding what relatives to see at Christmas.”
Stationed at Fort Lewis during a hitch with the Army - Shane was born in Tacoma - Mike Doyle knew he’d eventually move his family north. His gripes with California were mounting - the expense of living there, the crush of people, the mounting crime. And giving his kids a chance to compete better athletically figured in as well.
It’s worked. Shane was all-Greater Spokane League in two sports at Shadle. Mike starts for the Highlander varsity this season, Matt for the sophomores. Danny, who at age 9 looks to be as big as Shane was in high school, “is my little Babe Ruth,” according to his father. “
They have to live in Shane’s shadow a little bit and I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” said Kay Doyle. “I don’t know if coaches expect more out of them or not, but I do know they couldn’t be happier for Shane.”
Shane was famous enough in high school to draw considerable recruiting interest - and good enough that his early commitment to WSU ticked off at least one rival.
“Oregon - when I told them I’d committed to WSU without even taking any trips, they were really hostile,” Shane said. “Really upset. The Oregon guy said, ‘You’re not even giving us a chance?’ Maybe I should have taken a trip just for the fun of it, but WSU just felt right. It was close to home and I didn’t want to be far away from my family. I had a lot of close friends going. I was scared to move away from home, if you want to know the truth.”
Only one person was more frightened: Kay Doyle.
“I was so upset my big boy went off to college that I left my job,” said Kay, who works in the personnel department at ShopKo on the Newport Highway. “I’d been with them for seven years and I took four or five months off when he left. It was hard on me - and hard on Shane that first year.”
It didn’t get easier soon. Doyle redshirted the 1993 season, then watched from the sidelines as the 1994 defense carried the Cougs to the Alamo Bowl. At the same time, he was enduring a traumatic shift to defensive end from the linebacker spot he’d played in high school.
“It was upsetting to me at the time,” Doyle admitted. “I wanted to be a linebacker. That’s a position where you get a lot of glory, make a lot of big plays. At defensive end, I felt undersized.”
He’s no longer that. From 210 pounds in high school, Doyle has built himself up to more than 260 - still the runt of the defensive line, but able to hold his own. “I think to this day, he could have been one of the best linebackers in the country,” said Mike Doyle, in the closest thing to a second guess he’ll offer. “But it worked out better than we thought.”
Better than anyone thought - including Shane, possibly.
“The first year I started, we went 3-8 and it was just depressing,” he recalled. “The next year we were 5-2 and thinking we were headed to a bowl - and then we lost the rest of our games.
“Every year somebody asks me, ‘How are the Cougars going to do this year?’ I’d tell them, ‘We’re going to go to a bowl game,’ and then we’d end up 3-8 or 5-6. Finally, this year I’d say, ‘I don’t know - let’s wait and see.’ And this is the year we go all the way.
“When you’re a little kid, you play football in the yard by yourself, pretending you’re on the Cougars and in the Rose Bowl. But you never think about it happening.”
And once it happens, you never want to let it go. Which is why, at his son’s basketball game, Mike Doyle wore a Cougar hat with the name “Doyle” stitched across the adjustable band, a crimson Cougar windbreaker over a gray WSU shirt and crimson Cougar sweat pants.
“People probably think these are the only clothes I own, I wear them so much,” he said. “But I’ll tell you - they’re the only clothes I want to wear.”
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