PULLMAN – Enough was enough, Rahmel Dockery thought. He decided he was just about done.
Done with trying to play cornerback when he wanted so badly to play receiver. Done with trying to learn the defensive playbook. Done with Washington State’s football team.
So it wasn’t until a conversation with his parents – especially his father, Steve – and another with coach Mike Leach, that Dockery decided to stick it out and, as he said, “make the best of what I have right now.”
Father knew best, as it turns out.
“I’ve been listening to my dad all my life growing up,” Dockery said after Tuesday’s practice. “He’s been leading me down the right path my whole life.”
His influence has led Dockery, a Tacoma native, to the cusp of making an impact this season for the Cougars, who have given him quite a few repetitions at cornerback during team session throughout the spring.
On Tuesday, Dockery saw his most extensive playing time with the No. 1 defense after both Damante Horton and Nolan Washington left with apparent injuries.
The tempo of that session left Dockery swimming a little bit – “I was kind of losing track of the plays, so I need to get used to that,” he said – but his play through WSU’s first nine practices has separated him as one of the most promising young talents on the defensive side of the ball.
An offseason spent in the weight room and studying the playbook have helped, Dockery said. He calls it “getting my motivation back.”
It was a motivation that lacked last season, when coaches moved him to cornerback during preseason camp and he struggled to make the transition.
Dockery was recruited by former coach Paul Wulff as a receiver, then sat out during the 2011 season after being denied eligibility by the NCAA clearinghouse. He rectified that problem and was one of the first players to enroll at WSU after coach Mike Leach was hired, still under the impression that he was going to be used as a receiver.
So Dockery was upset when coaches moved him to corner about four weeks before the season opener, though he was buried on the depth chart at receiver.
There were times when his frustration was obvious, but as the season wore on, he became more and more active and eventually stood out as one of the better defenders during Leach’s “Thursday Night Football” workouts, a scrimmage-type session for scout-team players at the end of each Thursday practice.
It was after practice one day that Leach helped Dockery decide to persevere.
“He told me basically to stick it out and make the best of it,” Dockery said, “and everything happens for a reason.”
Maybe the Cougars are seeing that reason now. Dockery made another two interceptions during 7-on-7 drills on Tuesday, adding to the growing number of picks he’s procured so far this spring.
The 5-foot-10, 171-pounder says his speed is his best asset, though he’s still trying to perfect his knowledge of WSU’s playbook.
“Dockery can focus for a while and then he can break out the blank look on you,” said Leach after a recent practice. “We’re not getting too much of that blank look.”
Said Dockery: “I’m to the point where I’m over it. I have my mind set on starting for the defense. I’m past the point of wanting to go back to offense.”
Defensive tackles Toni Pole and Ioane Gauta remain on crutches, each with a knee brace on his right leg. Defensive tackles Robert Barber and Destiny Vaeao remain limited.