PULLMAN – There have been many years when you could peruse the Washington State University football roster and rarely see a player from the Inland Northwest.
One, maybe two, seemed to be the limit.
But that’s not the case now.
The Cougars have four starters who played their high school football in the Greater Spokane League, including three who form a triangle in the heart of the defense: freshmen defensive ends Travis Long (Gonzaga Prep) and Dan Spitz (Mead) and senior linebacker Andy Mattingly (Mead).
They, along with sophomore wide receiver Jared Karstetter (Ferris) illustrate a point of emphasis in coach Paul Wulff’s recruiting strategy: Build a fence around the Inland Northwest and keep the local players home.
“Absolutely” it’s what he wants to do, Wulff said this week. “They have an opportunity to have their family, friends and relatives watch them, drive just a few hours and enjoy every moment with them.”
But are there Pac-10 athletes in the area?
“Probably the last couple years, yes,” Wulff said. “I don’t know if the overall number of Division I players are there, but there are some Pac-10 football players now. There have been years when there (aren’t any) Pac-10 players, there are Division IAA-type guys.”
The Cougars’ defensive trio came together Tuesday to talk about their GSL background and how it helped them reach their goal of playing in the Pac-10.
“It’s the greatest league in the state of Washington, for one,” said Mattingly, the 6-foot-4, 249-pounder who played safety for Mead. “It’s probably the best football in the country.”
OK, so the last part of that statement was said in jest.
“There were always good teams,” said Long, a true freshman. “Ferris, Mead, CV, Prep and LC. They were seriously good.”
“It was kind of like Mead,” Mattingly said, holding his hand high, then dropping it, “and the other schools.”
Though Long and Spitz, a redshirt freshman, played against each other, Mattingly is from another football generation, having graduated before Long made the Prep varsity.
“He’s lucky,” Mattingly joked about the 6-4, 247-pound Long. “We would have smashed on him.”
Not many do, even today. The same can be said about the 6-6, 268-pound Spitz. Mattingly calls him Danny, which dates back to when Spitz was a razor-thin high school sophomore.
Mattingly was the experienced one then, and he still is. He’s willing to share the things he’s learned, especially about this weekend’s opponent, Oregon, and its venue, Autzen Stadium.
“It’s wild going down there,” said Mattingly, the only one of the three with game experience at Autzen. “They’re going to be excited, their fans are going to be excited. We’ve just got to try to start fast.”
Mattingly will be gone next year, but the GSL connection will live on. The Cougars have three commitments already from the league: linemen Aaron Dunn (Mead) and Jake Rodgers (Shadle Park) and quarterback Connor Halliday (Ferris). Letters of intent can be signed in February.
“We’re very encouraged by the commitments we do have right now and the ones who are young and in our program right now,” Wulff said of the local connection. “They are going to have a big impact.”
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