Jake Hoffman got the good news Thursday morning.
Just in time for Senior Day, the pins would be coming out from his left arm.
Hoffman felt no pain, only the joy of getting back on the field one last time at Eastern Washington.
“It would mean a lot,” said Hoffman, a senior safety who hasn’t played since injuring the arm six weeks ago. He pondered that thought until the tears began to well.
As fellow senior Marcus Saugen sat nearby, Hoffman’s voice was barely above a whisper:
“Just one more game.”
That will come on Saturday against Portland State. Joined by family and friends, Hoffman, Saugen and 12 other Eastern seniors will play at Roos Field, possibly for the last time.
“It’s been quite an experience,” Saugen said.
And quite a ride, considering it’s only 18 miles from North Central High School to the campus of Eastern Washington. They’ve seen the country, while earning championships and lifelong friendships.
Hoffman, who graduated from NC in 2013, pondered his college choices before deciding that the best option was the program in his own backyard.
A year later, Saugen drew the same conclusion and signed with the Eagles.
It wasn’t always easy. Hoffman, a star wide receiver in high school, was quickly moved to the secondary. He flourished from the start; as a redshirt freshman he had a school record six pass breakups in a win over Montana.
Later moved to safety, Hoffman has played in 45 games.
Saugen didn’t play football until his junior year at NC. He had a few college offers, but got the straight scoop from Hoffman about the family atmosphere in the Eastern locker room.
“Everything was so unified – I really felt that,” Saugen said.
Initially signing as a preferred walk-on, Saugen got a half-scholarship at the last minute. He lived up to it by playing as a true freshman at defensive end in the fall of 2014.
Saturday’s game will be Saugen’s 50th as an Eagle.
Both learned from the best in the Big Sky Conference. Hoffman played with T.J. Lee, Allen Brown, Tevin McDonald and Zach Bruce, and honed his craft under coaches Cherokee Valeria and Jeff Schmedding.
Saugen played most of his career at rush end behind All-American Samson Ebukam, who’s now in the NFL.
“It’s crazy to think I played behind him,” Saugen said of Ebukam, an immigrant from Nigeria.
“Nothing was given to him,” Saugen said.
Hoffman and Saugen have earned their dues as well, and both will graduate this year.
Hoping to emulate Schmedding, Hoffman is planning a career in coaching. Saugen, a two-time Big Sky academic all-star, wants to go into business and “buy a house for my wife – whenever that happens.”
Until then, there’s a game to play. Before kickoff, Hoffman and Saugen will walk onto the red turf accompanied by family and friends. Coach Aaron Best will greet them at the edge of Roos Field, and they’ll walk to midfield.
Said Hoffman: “It’s going to be special.”
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