SEATTLE – It’s not like Casey Hamlett is some hayseed from North Nowhere.
Heck, unlike other first-year players at Washington State University, the transfer from Western Washington has already played a football game at Qwest Field.
“There were only 12,000 people there,” Hamlett said this week, looking back at last year’s battle in Seattle with Central Washington. “I think they only sold seats in the lower bowl.”
There will be quite a few more than 12,000 in the Seahawks’ home stadium today when the Cougars host Hawaii in the eighth incarnation of WSU’s annual West Side game. Crowd estimates are in the 45,000 range.
That’s quite a few more than Hamlett, a defensive end from Edmonds, saw last year while playing in what turned-out-to-be the Vikings’ final football season.
And WSU’s five-hour bus trip Friday across the Cascades? A short jaunt.
“Humboldt State, when we played there, that was kind of a long trip,” Hamlett said of the 27-hour round-trip trek to play on the Northern California coast. “We drove down there from Bellingham. You get there, play the football game, then get right back on the bus and drive back to Bellingham.”
All the while playing in front of little more than friends and family.
“There’s not a lot of people at those schools and the football programs aren’t very hyped,” he said.
Hamlett, 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, may see a lot of action today as starting defensive end Kevin Kooyman is out for at least three weeks after suffering a posterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee during Wednesday’s practice. With Kooyman out, Hamlett and Jesse Feagin will try to fill the gaps.
Though get through the gaps might be more precise.
“We’ve got to be in position to make plays,” said co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball.
The Cougars weren’t often enough in last year’s 24-10 loss in Hawaii.
“We did get good pressure on him, even when we didn’t sack him we got good pressure,” said coach Paul Wulff of UH quarterback Greg Alexander, whom the Cougars sacked seven times. “He scrambled and picked up good yardage on us, which hurt.”
No matter how many plays he makes today, Hamlett expects to be greeted by numerous family members and friends afterward, many of whom watched him play last year – when they were a big part of the crowd.