PULLMAN – For someone who’s had more than a few disheartening days over the years, the last 48 hours sure have been special for former Washington State center Riley Sorenson.
On Friday, Sorenson completed his fifth and final round of chemotherapy at St. Joseph Regional Cancer Center in Lewiston. Saturday night, he joined a long list of school luminaries and former athletes when he raised the WSU flag behind the east end zone minutes before the Cougars kicked off against Montana State.
“I basically told them if I was feeling up to it – because my treatment ended yesterday – that I would do it,” Sorenson said Saturday, nearly an hour before kickoff at Martin Stadium. “It’s something that I always wanted to do.”
The former WSU offensive lineman had received an outpour of well wishes on social media since announcing in late June that his cancer had returned. And attendees of Saturday’s game showered Sorenson with love as he lifted the flag in the northeast corner of the stadium.
“It’s incredible and it’s indescribable how much support I’ve been given by people that I know and people that I really don’t know,” Sorenson said. “People that I have ties with and people that I don’t have ties with.”
Sorenson attended the game with girlfriend Elisabeth Haffner, who’s been at his side since Sorenson learned his cancer returned. Haffner flanked Sorenson as he stepped up to the podium to raise the flag.
“I literally couldn’t have done it without her,” Sorenson said. “She’s my chauffeur, she’s my cook. She makes all my food for me. She’s pretty much my elevated nanny.”
Other school dignitaries/alumni who’ve raised the flag include Steve Gleason, Klay Thompson, Keith Jackson and Lamont Thompson.
Last year, prolific Cougar receiver River Cracraft got the honors after sustaining a season-ending injury. Cracraft and Sorenson played high school ball together and graduated in the same class at California’s Santa Margarita High before spending four years with one another at WSU.
Sorenson reached out to his old teammate for flag-raising tips, but Cracraft didn’t have much to offer.
“I told (River) and he didn’t give me any advice,” Sorenson said. “I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”
The advice wasn’t necessary. The procession ran smoothly. Sorenson pulled on a rope, lifting the flag high above Martin Stadium, before waving to the crowd – all of it with a big grin on his face.