Football games are won on the practice field, the weight room and the film room. And sometimes they’re won on the couch.
That’s where Steven Forgette spent much of Eastern Washington’s 2011 season, nursing a broken fibula. “We spent a lot of time together, just sitting around and talking,” recalled center Ashton Miller, out that same year with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Bonding while their bodies were mending, the offensive linemen at Eastern Washington are now a tight-knit group, which paid off in last week’s 49-46 win at Oregon State. The Eagles gained 625 yards against the 25th-ranked Beavers, thanks partly to a big effort by the line.
Chemistry is a big part of it. That goes without saying, which is just how the soft-spoken Forgette likes it.
“It’s pretty important, because you have to know how people are going to react in certain situations,” said Forgette, a fixture at left guard since the beginning of the 2010 season.
“If you know someone well enough, you don’t have to say anything at all,” Forgette said, smiling.
Forgette, a senior from Vancouver, Wash., has let his blocking do the talking for a team-leading 33 starts. A strong technician with 300 pounds to back it up, he’s a second-team FCS preseason All-American.
“He’s a leader by example,” said line coach Aaron Best, who likens Forgette to a Gentle Ben-type in a not-so-gentle game.
“It’s nice playing next to him, because you know he’s going to do his job,” left tackle Clay DeBord said.
Forgette (pronounced “for-ZHET”), who also starred in wrestling and track at Heritage High School, was lightly recruited because he was simply too light: 240 pounds as a junior, and still only 260 as a senior in the fall of 2008. Western Washington offered a scholarship – just before it shut down the program.
Across the Columbia River, Portland State was uninterested. “We joke about that all the time,” Forgette said. Best and fellow assistant Jeff Schmedding picked it up from there. Impressed with the family atmosphere at Eastern – a familiar theme during recruiting – Forgette became an Eagle.
Once in Cheney, he worked hard enough in the weight room and the film room during his redshirt season in 2009 to earn the starting spot at left guard. In the process, he beat out Will Post, a future All-American at right tackle who graduated last year.
That was a surprise to some, but not to Forgette. “I’ve always worked hard, and I knew I was going to play,” he said.
That season, in 2010, the Eagles’ O-line protected Bo Levi Mitchell through one nail-biter after another.
“I think that’s what separates Eastern from a lot of schools,” Forgette said. “We had a lot of situations where we had to come back and win.”
The Eagles trailed Delaware 19-0 in the second half of the FCS championship game, “but we just kept grinding and doing our assignments,” Forgette said.
That was tougher yet against a hefty Delaware defensive line that knew every play would be a pass.
“We were a little undersized that year, but our technique and our knowledge of the game helped us a lot,” Forgette said.
Nothing could help ease the frustration of 2011. Forgette and the other injured linemen were there for every meeting, every practice. A healthy offensive line worked wonders last year, helping the Eagles to the FCS semifinals. This year’s unit could be even better.
New offensive sets have simplified the blocking and “allowed us to play faster,” Forgette said.
Last week, Oregon State was whistled for several penalties as the Beavers tried to substitute against Eastern’s hurry-up offense.
As the games count down this year, Forgette said his favorite memories aren’t about the games.
“The camaraderie has been awesome,” he said. “You can hang out with anybody – age and position don’t matter. And now, as a senior, people look up to you.”
After he earns his degree in exercise science, Forgette plans to attend Eastern’s Pro Day in the spring, then “roll with the punches” and see where he lands.
If he isn’t playing, he wants to coach – and why not? Says Miller, “He’s very knowledgeable in all the situations, and he’s very passionate about the work he does.
“It’s inspiring to see a guy like that.”