Chad Eaton and DeWayne Patterson discovered that strapping on the gray helmet with the cursive “Cougars” on the side supplies them with more than just protection.
“Instant respect,” Eaton said. “The respect is there and it’s all around.”
Eaton and Patterson will represent Washington State today in the East-West Shrine Classic at Stanford Stadium.
This week, they’ve sloshed through soggy practices with some of the best players in the nation. And one thing they’ve discovered is that the Cougars’ stellar season - especially on defense - did not go unnoticed across the country.
“It’s really nice, you got some Miami guys and Florida State guys and some Colorado guys and I don’t think before they would have known if you said WSU,” Eaton said. “They’d have said who? You guys the Huskies? Now as soon as they find out you’re WSU Cougars they all say, ‘Man, you guys have got great defense.”’
How does Eaton respond?
“Damn straight we do.”
“First thing everybody says to us is, ‘Man, you’re defense is all there’,” Patterson said.
Eaton earned the Morris Trophy as the Pacific-10 Conference’s top defensive lineman for his play at tackle, while Patterson made several all-America teams for his passrushing skills at defensive end.
And although the nation has taken note of the Cougar defense, both see this game as an important showcase for their skills.
“This is something I really need,” Eaton said. “I’m not the greatest athlete, so it’s important for me to go out and show them how I can do against the very best.”
He already surprised the scouts with his displacement. “They all had me listed at 6-3, 270 pounds,” Eaton said. “I showed up 18 pounds more than that and measured 6-4.”
Size is even a greater concern for Patterson, a 6-1, 248-pounder who is probably too small as a defensive end.
“I feel I have to really get off,” Patterson said. “A lot of people are overlooking me because of my size, so I feel I have to go out there and prove them wrong and get some sacks and play hard. I’m going to be in on special teams, so I have a chance to make some big hits.”
Eaton detects particular motivation in Patterson to come up with a big game.
“DeWayne’s motto this week is ‘Shock the World,”’ Eaton said. “He wants to go out against the best tackles and get some sacks and show what he can do.”
The two Cougars have found themselves in the unaccustomed position of being teammates with Washington Huskies Napoleon Kaufman and Mark Bruener.
“It’s been great, we’ve even been hanging out together,” Eaton said. “This is the second East-West game Bruener and I have played together in; we played in the (Washington) high school one, too.”
The next goal, to play in the Pro Bowl together, as well.
“We could handle that,” Eaton said.
“Those are good guys,” said Kaufman, a slashing running back that Eaton and Patterson have chased for the past several years. “They’re great players, so it’s nice to have them on my side for a change.”
“It’s nice playing for the kids,” Patterson said. “We went to the hospitals and you could see the disabilities they had, but you also saw the smiles on their faces and could tell this was important to them.” Patterson said he hasn’t even retained an
agent yet because, “I know what I have to do, go out and play hard; I don’t need an agent to tell me that.”
Eaton, meanwhile, is represented by International Management Group. He will attend the scouting combine in Indianapolis in February, but Patterson has yet to receive an invitation to the combine.
What sort of team does Eaton see himself fitting in with? One-gap defense, two-gap defense? “None of that matters,” he said. “When that ball is snapped, I’m going to be all over the field.”
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