PULLMAN – Given that only 189 miles separates Tallin, Estonia, and St. Petersburg, Russia, college football coaches might want to start making stops at both on recruiting trips.
You never know when you might find the next Michael Roos or Andrei Lintz.
Washington State University coach Paul Wulff found both, though he didn’t have to travel to Europe for either.
Both immigrated to the United States as youngsters, both played football for the first time in high school and both were overlooked by most major colleges.
And both decided to play for Wulff, Roos at Eastern Washington, Lintz at WSU.
“Their personalities have some similarities, there’s no question,” Wulff said. “They’re very even-keeled (in) temperament, which allows them to be smart, intelligent players. Andrei is like that. He’s intelligent and he’s got a pretty darn good demeanor.”
Roos, 6-foot-7 and 315 pounds, was born in Estonia but emigrated with his mother, brother and sister when he was 10. He came to Cheney from Mountain View High in Vancouver, Wash., after one year of playing tight end and defensive line in high school. His sophomore year at EWU he was switched to left tackle and is now considered one of the NFL’s best with the Tennessee Titans.
Lintz, 6-5, 247 pounds, was born in St. Petersburg, but emigrated with his mother and brother when he was 6. He came to Pullman from Meridian High in Bellingham, where he first starred on the soccer pitch and basketball court before earning all-state honors as a senior punter and defensive end. He also played tight end at Meridian, the position he’s played all three years at WSU.
And he knows who Roos is.
“When they recruited me, (the coaches) were like, ‘oh, yeah, Michael Roos,’ ” Lintz said. “He makes the most money, I think, of any left tackle in the NFL.”
But the Roos connection wasn’t why Lintz chose the Cougars. He had been a fan ever since settling in the state. Their success was alluring.
“As soon as coach Wulff and coach (Travis) Niekamp made that in-home visit in December of my senior year, I was sold,” he said. “You know, Pac-10 offer, Cougars. I grew up a Cougar fan back in the early 2000s when they got up to No. 3 in the nation.
“I was a die-hard Cougar fan, always wore Cougar shirts to schools.”
And a fan was all he was as a freshman after breaking his leg and tearing ankle ligaments while practicing for the all-state high school football game after his senior year. The recovery took more than a year, with Lintz saying he really didn’t trust his leg until late last season.
Maybe that explains the one knock against Lintz.
“The key for him is to continue to play more physical,” tight ends coach Rich Rasmussen said. “He’s got the athleticism we’re looking for, he’s got a pretty good understanding of the offense, he studies, so all those things are positives.”
Lintz heard the physical comments all last year. So when the season petered out, he made a decision.
“When last season ended, as soon as the Apple Cup ended, we’re coming off a bad season, I made a choice,” Lintz said. “I said to myself, ‘If this is going to happen and I’m going to have fun here and we’re going to win games, it’s got to start now.’ ”
Lintz spent the offseason trying to fulfill that pledge, lifting, running, working.
“Every morning I woke up, I was excited to work out,” he said. “I had never taken anything seriously like that. After this summer, I think I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been and I am the strongest I’ve ever been.”
Thus far this season, Lintz has been showing his athleticism off in practice, and impressing with his physical nature as well.
“This is the year he needs to step up and play more,” Wulff said. “He has the athletic ability. We just need him to keep growing. He’s nowhere near where he can be as a football player. But he needs to keep pressing forward to get better.”
If he needs pointers, he knows whom to call. Heck, they were once practically neighbors.