PULLMAN – Carl Winston and Anthony Carpenter have been friends since they were 6 years old, football teammates just as long.
So who better to ask about Winston, who has put together a solid stretch at running back for Washington State, than his childhood friend?
“He was a pretty big kid, honestly,” Carpenter said of Winston, who at 5-foot-8, wouldn’t fit anyone’s definition of big nowadays. “He was like a bowling ball. He was just so big he would just run everybody over. Not run past them, run them over.”
Then Carpenter, a hard-hitting safety, laughed.
“He was like a bowling ball. That’s funny, yeah,” he said again, chuckling.
Despite his height, or maybe because he packs a well-chiseled 200 pounds on to his frame, Winston has made his mark during this, his junior year at WSU, by running over defenders. It’s a talent that’s appreciated.
“He finishes his runs really well,” offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy said.
But that’s not Winston’s only attribute, according to coach Paul Wulff.
Asked to name his most valuable offensive player during the Cougars’ 3-3 first half of the season, Wulff mentioned wide receiver Marquess Wilson, who is among the nation’s leaders in receiving.
But only after first naming Winston.
“His consistency, and everything, his blocking, his toughness, his physical presence,” Wulff answered when asked why a guy with just 224 yards rushing and no game with more than 47 yards, would be his MVP. “It gives us another dimension that helps our team.”
Winston was impressive as a freshman, standing out at preseason camp with his ability to drive tacklers back, gaining 2 or 3 yards on plays without hope.
But knee and hamstring injuries stifled his abilities his first two seasons, and he came into this year with just 232 yards on 64 carries.
“I just stayed with it,” Winston said, “doing all the things I was supposed to do rehabbing, and it’s all paying off.”
Winston’s first career touchdown came in Colorado as he bowled in from the 2-yard line. He did the same thing against Stanford.
As Winston said, he’s trying to score on every play. But Sturdy sees a player who not only excels with the ball in his hands, but when he has someone’s back as well.
“He does an awesome job in pass blocking, blitz pickup,” Sturdy said. “He’s a very prideful person. And he has a ton of passion. He’s one of the most passionate players I’ve ever coached.
“He just loves to play football.”
Carpenter has known that for a long time. After playing with Winston in youth football and at Junipero Serra High in Southern California, the duo weren’t about to be separated in college.
“Carp got the offer from WSU first,” Winston said. “I got mine, I guess, about a month later. He had his offers, I had mine and we kind of set down, looked at it and said, ‘Let’s go to WSU, go to the same school.’ ”
The two have roomed together for three years – Carpenter is a redshirt sophomore – and have taken care of each other.
“We knew each other, so we were always going to have each other’s back no matter what,” Carpenter said.
So who would win if Winston and Carpenter, known for delivering big blows on special teams and as backup safety, collided?
“The funny thing is we’ve never gone head up,” said Winston, who, sporting the nickname “The Truck” in youth football, joined Carpenter on defense at linebacker as kids. “I don’t think it was allowed in high school, because they were afraid of one of us getting hurt.
“He does his thing on defense, I do mine on offense.”