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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Grip on Sports: Our thoughts wander as we contemplate the NFL draft, local players and what the future holds

Washington State Cougars offensive lineman Cole Madison celebrates senior night before the first half of a college football game last November at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Some mornings are made for deep, in-depth thoughts on one subject. This isn’t one of those mornings. Read on.


• Too much was going on yesterday to devote all our time to one subject. Instead, we are going to flit around. And maybe hit on one subject you are interested in.

• One of the subjects Derek Deis and I talked about on the Washington State postgame show last season was the pro prospects of the seniors. I told him there was one player who I felt had a better chance than any, offensive lineman Cole Madison.

After watching the way he attacked every possession with a fury, Madison seemed like the type of guy who would be able to compete in the NFL trenches.

Only time will tell if I was right, but yesterday Madison was the first Cougar drafted, going in the fifth round to Green Bay. It won’t surprise me if Madison has a long professional career, even if it starts slowly, as is often the case with Air Raid offensive linemen.

• Then again, it seemed to me Hercules Mata’afa would also be on someone’s radar. He wasn’t. No one would draft the Pac-12’s most explosive defensive lineman.

Instead, Mata’afa signed as a free agent with Minnesota, getting to pick the team he wanted instead of being someone’s last choice. That often is a good thing, and considering Mike Zimmer’s history of finding a way to make unique talents contribute, Mata’afa is in a good spot.

• I’m not sure the same can be said of Luke Falk, other than family and geography.

Falk went in the sixth round to Tennessee, based in Nashville, which just happens to be the home of sisters, but may not be the best offensive fit for his talents. Besides, the Titans have a veteran starter and a veteran backup already on board, leaving Falk a fight with two others for the third spot and a place, seemingly, on the practice squad.

After falling so far in the draft, it’s probably too bad Falk was drafted at all. If he had been skipped altogether, he could have signed with someone with more roster spots up for grabs.

That may come later, if Falk has a good offseason with the Titans. If he doesn’t stick in Tennessee, there is a good chance he can show enough to find a home somewhere.

• Spring football is over for our local schools, leaving us bereft of the sport until late summer.

Next season will be one of change at Washington State, without Falk, and at Idaho, playing in a new league and a new level. Eastern, which went through its year of change already, will bring back a veteran team to compete with Idaho in the Big Sky Conference.

No matter what, it will be fun.

• This is the last weekend of April. It was and will be accompanied by showers, something that seemed prevalent this month. Let’s hope there are a lot of May flowers. We deserve them.


WSU: Of course Theo Lawson was busy yesterday. First he had to write the story of Madison getting drafted. Then he had to write another story about Falk. And finally he had to cover Mata’afa’s day. At least no one transferred from the basketball team. … There is other coverage of the Cougar draft picks in the Times as well. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Oregon State held its spring game. … So did California. … Arizona State somehow was able to attract a 7-foot recruit. … Finally, don’t expect a sea change in college basketball.

Gonzaga: If you are wondering who to blame for me being in Spokane, Gonzaga’s Steve Hertz is as good as any. I first met Steve at UC Irvine in 1979, where he was the first-year head coach and I was a recent graduate and first-year sports information assistant, dealing with baseball. The next year I was working at the Orange County Register as a sports writer and covering college baseball. Three years later I interviewed in Spokane, not sure I wanted to leave Southern California. I called Hertz, visited with him at his Gonzaga office and left with my mind made up. I was moving. He had done an incredible recruiting job. I’m not sure, but I do believe that’s what’s behind this honor. … The baseball team bounced back with a win over Loyola Marymount.

EWU: The Eagles finished spring practice with their Red-White Game. Jim Allen was in Cheney and has this coverage. Jesse Tinsley was also there and has this photo gallery. … Jim also has a story on the new athletic director, Lynn Hickey.

Idaho: The Vandals won the men’s and women’s Big Sky tennis titles.

Chiefs: Tri-City was able to stay alive in the WHL Western Conference finals at Everett.

Preps: Yes, it was a busy Saturday around the Inland Northwest. And yes, we have roundups from baseball, softball and track. And yes, we have coverage of the Inland Empire Tennis Tournament. But the most fun read of the day is John Blanchette’s column.

Mariners: The lineup exploded for a season-high 12 runs yesterday and the M’s picked up a win in Cleveland. … One of the hottest bats so far belongs to Mitch Haniger.

Seahawks: The best story from yesterday was easy to see. It was the Hawks taking Shaquill Griffin’s brother, Shaqueem, in the fifth round. He’s a good player in his own right, despite his challenges. … Seattle traded up to take a punter. … That and many picks puzzled the talking heads.

Sounders: Seattle needs the three points. So revenge shouldn’t be a part. But it is.


• Another Sunday looms. It seems like a good day to catch up on some thinking. Of course, I would never do that. Until later …