If steady wins the race, Will Post is already in the winner’s circle.
And if the Eastern Washington offense wants to do the same this season, who better to follow than a guy who’s been doing that for more than five years?
“It seems like he’s always getting better,” said guard Brandon Murphy, who lines up next to the Eagles’ right offensive tackle, academic all-star and team captain.
In high school, Post bloomed so late – on and off the field – that he almost didn’t.
“I didn’t realize what it took academically until my junior year of high school,” said Post, a senior from Portland who wasn’t recruited until the week before national letter-of-intent day in 2008. Even after the Eagles offered him a scholarship, Post figured that with borderline grades and test scores, he might have to sit for a season.
Four years later, Post is a two-time Big Sky All-Academic selection and is catching interest from NFL scouts. As it turns out, Post may have more football ahead of him than it seemed at age 17.
“Once the season is over, I’ll look at my options,” said Post, who is 6-foot-6, 295 pounds. “But right now I have to focus on having the best season I can.”
The season got special even before it began. On Aug. 16, teammates voted him a team captain – another validation of hard work that went beyond the norm.
“If he’s asked to do something he’ll do it to the best of his ability,” said offensive lineman Steve Forgette, who emphasized that the players saw a leader in the making.
The coaches agree.
“He’s a coach’s dream, a consummate student-athlete,” said offensive line coach Aaron Best, who also serves as the team’s academic coordinator. “I can’t remember a time when he’s been late for anything. He always has a smile on his face, asks questions, and the rest falls into place.”
As far as the X’s and O’s of the game, Best said Post is among the best he’s seen.
“It’s going to take a good move to get him out of whack,” Best said.
For Post, the captaincy “meant that all the hard work I’ve done since I got here, people took notice of that, on and off the field.”
Teammates and coaches agree on one thing: Post is a leader by example, not an in-your-face screamer.
“But when I need to get vocal, I will,” Post said.
In high school, Post played freshman ball at Southridge High School, west of Portland. His parents were separated, so he spent a summer with his father in Wisconsin, a visit that eventually covered 18 months and two seasons at a lesser football program. By the time he returned to Portland, there was catching up to do.
Several colleges showed interest – “mostly Big Sky schools,” Post said – but Eastern, with a young staff under new coach Beau Baldwin, was the only Division I school to offer a scholarship. Not that it mattered, because Post “liked the coaches. I liked their ages, and Coach Baldwin and everyone here was pretty hungry.”
So was Post, but in hindsight, the best move Eastern made was redshirting Post, who got a chance to “focus on grades” while working on the scout team. Post is a communications major.
In 2009, he played in six games as a backup at both guard and tackle while earning all-conference academic honors.
Post prefers to play tackle.
“I like the space, and I don’t like being in so tight,” he said. “And you don’t get your feet stepped on so much.”
The next season, he started 13 games at right tackle as EWU won the national championship.
“We had so many close games, most other teams might have lost them,” Post said. “We felt like we just couldn’t lose.”
Post’s favorite memory is the 90-yard drive against North Dakota State in the FCS quarterfinals. The Eagles trailed 31-24 with barely 2 minutes left.
“It was just confidence, not a doubt in the huddle that we were going to score,” he said.
It took 14 plays, but the Eagles scored and eventually won in overtime.
“After all the work, all the practice … that made it that much better,” Post said of winning the national championship. “It was all so surreal.”
The next year was surreal in another way.
Best was missed the first two games with an ankle injury, then got healthy in time to see most of the rest of the line get hurt.
“Our team mentality was that we’re going to roll with who we’ve got,” Post said. “That’s the mentality that Coach Best and Coach Baldwin took, which helped offset the feeling that everyone was gunning for us following the championship season.
“At the end, we felt we could win with whoever we had.”
The Eagles won six of their last seven games, but a 6-5 record “felt like a losing season,” Post said.
“The goal this year is definitely to get back to the playoffs.”
But even amid the chaos and injuries, Post was earning his captain’s stripes.
“It was a weird year,” said Murphy, who was moved to a new spot at right guard. “He helped me settle down, and when Coach Best says something, he can see that I’m not getting it, and he’ll tell me what’s going on.”
And the stripes were earned during winter conditioning, when Post’s team outperformed the others. And during the spring, when players were adjusting to new positions.
“He’s always willing to stay after and teach you something, and he’s always willing to stay after,” Murphy said.
All the way to the finish line.