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Friday, June 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Roos’ football journey brings him back to Cheney as Hall of Famer

Michael Roos, a former Eastern Washington University and Tennessee Titans football player, stands on Roos Field at EWU. Roos made a large gift to EWU, allowing the university to install its famous red turf. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Michael Roos, a former Eastern Washington University and Tennessee Titans football player, stands on Roos Field at EWU. Roos made a large gift to EWU, allowing the university to install its famous red turf. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Michael Roos admits he’s a numbers guy. Finance and economics major in college at Eastern Washington. Knows the power of a well-invested dollar. Big on probabilities.

And mathematical coincidence.

“My birthday is Oct. 5,” he pointed out during a conversation the other day, “and I got hurt during my 10th season, in the fifth game.”

This was not some eerie omen that sent Roos rushing into retirement from the National Football League last year, but it could have been numerological affirmation of his feeling that when it’s time, it’s time. For up to the point his knee buckled in a 2014 game against Cleveland, he had been among the most durable and reliable of performers in the NFL – borne out, again, by the numbers: 148 games played with the Tennessee Titans, 148 starts. An emergency appendectomy derailed that total from being consecutive; it kept him out all of one whole game.

Just showing up, it’s been said, is 80 percent of success. Roos rounded up his exceptionalism by playing up – and in some cases, standing up.

All of that is in the resume that this morning ushers him into EWU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in an induction class that also includes track standouts Steve Kiesel and Becky Nelson-Clark, and Ed Waters and the 1977 basketball team. In the process, Roos and his wife, Katherine, also will receive Eastern’s service and contribution award.

The Roos name is on the football field, too, of course – the couple’s $500,000 gift being the impetus for the renowned red turf and, as such, a huge chunk of the Eastern’s identity. The school may be running out of avenues of acknowledgement, unless it decides to name the double burger at Baldy’s Grill after him, as well.

And that’s a thought.

The bond between alum and school is not always as completely realized as the one between Roos and Eastern, even when large donations and naming opportunities become attached.

Roos was of this place almost immediately upon hitting campus. That sense has only grown stronger.

“He was in the NFL for 10 years and he came back here every season on his bye week to go to a game,” said EWU coach Beau Baldwin. “He’ll speak to the team – this year in fall camp, too – and he texts me after almost every game, not just the big ones.

“Eastern means a lot to him, and he’s shown it in ways beyond his generosity.”

That’s an interesting by-product of Eastern’s 30-odd year dance in Division I athletics. At an institution once overly identified as a commuter school and by thin connections with its grads, some of EWU’s strongest ties are athletics driven.

For Roos, it began as simple gratitude.

“I didn’t get any (scholarship) offers from anybody else,” he noted.

That part of the story is well-chronicled – emigrating from his native Estonia as a child, and dissuaded from football by his mother until his senior year at Mountain View High School in Vancouver. Former EWU coach Paul Wulff was watching film on another recruit when Roos’ play – and size – attracted his attention. It’s hard to say either of them envisioned him being an All-American.

But Eastern football has thrived on overlooked Washington kids, and Roos thrived just as much

“I think sometimes, guys come out of the school they go to and maybe they didn’t enjoy their time as much because of certain expectations they had,” he said. “I didn’t know much about football and I became the player I was there. Everything came together in football, in school, everything. That doesn’t always happen. And when it doesn’t, guys don’t have a reason to keep going back or giving back.”

His relatively seamless transition to the NFL provided the means for that giving back. Much like Wulff watching that high school video, Titans line coach Mike Munchak remembered watching Roos for one practice and knowing he would be a starter. By 2008, Roos was All-Pro at one of football’s toughest positions, left tackle.

And he was always All-There.

“I had my share of nicks and bruises and sprains, but I was always of the mentality that they’re paying me a lot of money to be available to play, and I have to do everything in my power to be out there,” he said.

And then he couldn’t – and it wasn’t just the knee injury.

“After that many years, mentally I just couldn’t put myself through all the work to prepare for an NFL season,” Roos said. “My body could have taken it, but it was just something I didn’t want to do.

“One of my goals was to get to 10 years, to double digits. Like I said, I’m a big numbers guy.”

His career proved it, and his generosity reaffirmed it. In Hall of Fame ways.

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