PULLMAN – This isn’t Desmond Trufant’s first Apple Cup. It’s just his first wearing purple.
“I was at all of them my brother was in,” said the University of Washington freshman defensive back and younger brother of Cougar great Marcus.
Trufant grew up in Tacoma as a self-professed “big fan” of Washington State. He had Cougar clothing, souvenirs, posters, all the accoutrements any fan covets, plus something few can lay claim to.
“I had everything,” he said. “Sweatshirts, sweats. We had his jersey, too. I would wear his jersey to the games and stuff. I had a lot of Cougar stuff.”
The reason behind his obsession is simple. He worshiped his older brother.
And why not?
Marcus Trufant was one of the best cornerbacks in Washington State history, an All-American who is eighth on the Cougars’ all-time interception list with 11. And a self-made star.
“Marcus was probably one of the hardest-working kids I ever coached,” said WSU co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball, who was the Cougars’ secondary coach for most of the time Marcus was starring in Pullman from 1999 to 2002.
“He was a great athlete but what set him apart from everybody else was his work ethic.”
That work ethic took Marcus from Wilson High in Tacoma to WSU and now to the defensive backfield of the Seattle Seahawks, where he has earned All-Pro honors.
The same ethic took brother No. 2, Isaiah, from Tacoma to Eastern Washington, where he played for then-Eagles coach Paul Wulff, and on to the Arena Football League.
But it didn’t take Desmond across the Cascades. He stayed close to home, heading up Interstate 5 to UW.
“It’s not that (WSU) wasn’t able to get me there, it was more of me wanting to make my own name and my own path,” Desmond said.
“You grow up wanting to be like your brother and do exactly what he did, but when you get to that point you’re like, ‘Yeah, I want to be like him but I still want to be me first.’ You know what I mean?
“I just wanted to kind of make my own path, so I choose Washington.”
As a 6-foot, 172-pound freshman, Desmond has played in all 10 UW games, starting the last seven. He’s fifth on the team in overall tackles, with 37 of his 38 of the solo variety. His two interceptions are tied for the team lead and he’s also recovered a fumble, which he returned 17 yards for a touchdown against Notre Dame.
It’s what he dreamed about growing up. But in his dreams, he was wearing crimson.
“They had the inside track because I grew up loving the Cougars,” he said of his recruitment. But as the process wore on, he added, his affection for WSU and his affinity for its coaches took a backseat to his desire to escape his brother’s shadow.
When Desmond made his decision, one of the first people he had to tell was Marcus. It wasn’t easy.
“He actually supported me,” Desmond said, after first laughing at the memory of telling his older brother. “He told me throughout the whole process to do what was right for me. Don’t follow what everybody else wants you to do.
“Just make sure it’s the right place for you, because I’m the one who has to go through this life.”
And now Marcus has to make a decision. Who will he root for this weekend?
“I’m wondering that too,” Desmond said. “I wonder if he’ll do something like root for me but have his Cougar jersey on or something like that.”
Rivalry or not, Desmond admits WSU is still special to him as well.
“I can’t lie,” he said. “Deep down inside, I do have a love for the Cougars.”