PULLMAN – Andy Roof has an opportunity. He has a second chance at football, a second chance at college, a second chance at life.
The Washington State football player is back in Pullman, now a redshirt senior, a leader on his team. He can show his teammates, and everybody, that he can turn his life around.
Roof can be a role model – an unlikely opportunity for him from just one year ago, when he was suspended from WSU after his third alcohol offense.
“Now that I get that second chance, I just want to show everyone that I’m not a screw-up,” Roof said. “That I am serious, that I want to be here, I want to be a part of this team and I want to play football.
“You know, I think the best way to do that is to keep that sober lifestyle.”
Roof said he no longer goes to parties, goes out to bars or drinks. He’s back to play football.
In the six months he was gone from his suspension in late July until his return in January, Roof said he had time to think about his life. He was living with his father in Bonney Lake, a small suburb of Tacoma, and working at a Bally Total Fitness in Auburn.
At work, he realized he might want to become a physical trainer and perhaps change his major from psychology to physiology. He realized the folly of his college days, when he focused less on school and football and more on boozing and partying.
He always had the itch to return to the Cougars’ football team.
“There were just some things in my life that I needed to get straight before I came back,” Roof said.
“The consequences of the way that I was living my life were outweighing the fun of it. I was drinking and getting in trouble, and I just needed to get away from that part of my life.”
Meanwhile, the Cougars played to a 5-7 overall record last season and missed any chance for a bowl berth. Coach Bill Doba was under fire and ultimately retired, leaving in his place uncertainty about the future of WSU football.
The university hired Paul Wulff away from Eastern Washington, and the new coaching staff went on a recruiting blitz. Wulff knew there was a veteran player in Bonney Lake who was considering coming back to Pullman.
Wulff first called Roof, then the two met at a restaurant in Spokane.
“He probably just had to get some things off his chest and wanted to know where he stood, what his future had lying ahead for him,” Wulff said. “I told him what we were going to do, how things were going to be different. If he wanted to be part of that, then he could jump on board.”
That was just what Roof wanted to hear.
“I liked all the old coaches, I thought they were great,” Roof said. “So at first, when the coaching change happened, I was like, ‘Well, you know, what if I don’t get along with these coaches?’
“But after I spoke with Coach Wulff – these coaches are great, too. Top to bottom, they’re all awesome. Once I got to talk to him … it actually made me want to come back even more.”
But waiting for Roof was another change.
During winter conditioning one day, Wulff came up to him in the weight room and asked if he had any interest in playing defense. Before he left Pullman, Roof was an offensive lineman.
At East Valley High School in Spokane, Roof started on both sides of the ball. So, sure, he thought, he would give defensive lineman a shot.
So far this spring, the change has worked out.
“I love it,” Roof said. “Defense is a blast. You have to tackle the guy with the ball. D-line is football in its purest form. It’s a big adjustment playing Pac-10 defense versus (Greater Spokane League), though.”
He said he likes the improvisation – “the reading and reacting” – of defense that makes each play different and exciting. An offensive lineman knows what’s going to happen and has a set position to which he moves.
Roof’s 6-foot-5, 300-pound frame has suited him well for the defensive line.
“Andy’s doing great,” defensive line coach Malik Roberson said. “He’s made strides as far as his new position.”
Roberson knew Roof from his days in high school. Roof always had a bit of a chip on his shoulder, Roberson said. Now that he’s back after his suspension, Roof has mellowed – not on the field, but off of it.
“He’s been nothing but outstanding since he’s come back,” Wulff said. “I think he’s probably a little more stable in his behavior on and off the field, and he’s consistent.
“He’s always had a very good work ethic, but now he’s doing well in all (facets). He’s doing well socially, he’s doing well in the classroom, he’s doing well on the field. He’s just so much more well-rounded.
“He seems to bring a tremendous amount of great leadership.”
Roof’s suspension lost him his football scholarship and he’s now a walk-on. He saved up some money at Bally Total Fitness, but he’s hoping the university will put him back on scholarship this fall.
But he understands if it doesn’t, he said.
Right now, he’s just happy to be back on the gridiron.
“It’s great,” Roof said. “It’s just a blessing to be able to be back and play football. I missed this so much – the working out, the running. Just being a part of this team is awesome.”