PULLMAN – For three Washington State football players, the wait for Saturday’s 2011 season opener has been interminable.
Rickey Galvin, Toni Pole and Kristoff Williams were supposed to make their Martin Stadium debuts about 12 months ago. But little things got in the way.
Like a broken arm, a torn calf muscle, a bum toe.
All three were in the Cougars’ plans last season, their first on the Palouse. But all three were derailed by injuries, Pole and Williams in preseason camp, Galvin on his first play at Oklahoma State. So all had to wait an extra 12 months to get on the turf.
“It was a little disappointing to go through all of fall camp, to have success, and then, on the last days of camp, suffer an injury that kept you out more than half the season, it just breaks your spirit,” said Pole, a 6-foot-1, 292-pounder who will start at defensive tackle Saturday when the Cougars host Idaho State.
Pole showed his quickness from the first snap of camp last season, much of it with his family watching (he’s the oldest of eight children) and seemed destined to play a large role up front.
But one practice changed those plans. He tore his calf in a scrum, missed a large chunk of time and the decision to redshirt was finally made. It looks now as if that decision has paid dividends.
“I learned I had to get back on my feet,” he said. “To be able to come back from that made me stronger as a person and made me feel more invincible than I was before.”
Despite his size, Pole moves well enough to slide outside if needed, giving the Cougars more options up front. And despite his size, Pole practiced under the radar much of last season.
The same can’t be said of Galvin.
The 5-8, 171-pound running back burst onto the scene in last year’s camp, with coach Paul Wulff singing his praises and predictions of stardom flying around like Jeff Tuel fades.
But one run, a 2-yard gain against the Cowboys in the opener, changed all that. Galvin landed hard, broke his arm and was finished for the season.
Now all that’s left is a scar, and a desire to get on the field Saturday. Though senior Logwone Mitz will start, Galvin will see his share of carries.
“Knowing that I’m playing, it’s going to be a really big deal,” Galvin said. “This will be my first time coming out of the tunnel at our home stadium suited up. It’s going to be really over.”
Galvin believes the time spent last season watching on the sidelines, a hoody covering his head and a cast on his arm, served him well.
“At the end, it was most helpful, because I got to observe my teammates and just learn a lot from watching,” Galvin said. “I learned a lot about the timing with the (offensive) line. I know I’ve mentioned this so many times, but it’s the key for me. The timing and knowing the defensive fronts, it gives me a good feeling of what’s coming, what to expect from the defense.”
Williams was another breakout star early in the 2010 camp, his athletic ability and speed a ticket to playing time as a freshman. But his big toe wouldn’t cooperate.
Williams suffered a case of turf toe and tried, at first, to play through it. That didn’t work. Finally he had to be shut down. Showing off his receiving skills would have to wait.
“It’s been too long,” Williams said with a laugh, something the 6-2, 206-pounder does easily. “It was hard knowing I had a chance to play. Eventually, I realized it was a blessing in disguise. I got to get a lot stronger, more confident in my route running and learn the receiver position more.”
Blessing or not, Williams and his running mates want to play.
“I’ve been thinking about that ever since last year,” Williams said. “I remember, having to redshirt, coming out to the stadium during the game and seeing all the fans, it just got me excited.
“I’m ready to go.”