The coronavirus pandemic has driven the majority of Washington State’s student-athletes out of Pullman, and even those who stuck around have been barred from using the training facilities and weight rooms on campus as the school complies with Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order.
Former Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard, now playing for the Philadelphia Eagles after being selected 22nd overall in the 2018 NFL draft, is facing many of the same restrictions as COVID-19 threatens the professional football season, which would normally be holding its rookie minicamp next month.
Recognizing that many of his former college teammates, and other WSU athletes, may not have workout equipment or nutritional resources readily available, Dillard stepped up and spent big on care packages that the school plans on distributing to all Cougar athletes.
According to WSU, the “fueling care packages” included strength and conditioning items such as elastic resistance bands and various nutritional items. It’s not clear exactly how many individual packages were sent out by WSU or how much Dillard spent on the packages, just that the former Coug did out of good will and wasn’t seeking any publicity or attention.
Dillard’s father, Mitch, a lineman for WSU in the 1980s, said he didn’t know about the gesture until speaking to his son on the phone Thursday morning.
“That is the type of person Andre is. He does things because he feels like they need to be done,” Mitch said. “… He’s been given a lot of opportunity and that’s one of the things I told him is, ‘Find a way to give a back.’ … I’m actually very happy to see he’s found a way to do that.
“I think it’s a good way to make that transition to make sure you stay connected with the community, because he got help along the way. It makes me feel good as a dad to see that he is thinking about other people.”
Bryce Moyle, a left-handed pitcher for the Cougars’ baseball team, and women’s basketball player Michaela Jones shared photos of the packages sent by Dillard. Moyle’s box included two elastic bands, a clear plastic Gatorade blender bottle, a 2-pound tub of standard whey protein and two bottles of dotFIT vitamins. Jones’ package included a tub of protein powder, a blender bottle and vitamins.
“This is so much appreciated and a great example for the world, kindness makes a difference!” Jones wrote on Twitter.
WSU decathlete Seth Andres tweeted out a photo of his box with the caption, “Life long Coug fan. Life long Eagles fan. Current WSU student athlete. I’d like to deeply thank Andre Dillard for donating these care packages for us athletes who remained in Pullman. #FlyEaglesFly”
Baseball coach Brian Green applauded Dillard for his generosity during a live chat for The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Forum Thursday afternoon.
“To give that much when you’re fresh out of college, a care package for all the athletes, it just speaks to the community and the culture of not only athletics, but just of Washington State in general,” Green said. “It’s just a giving culture. … It is awesome, our kids are getting workout bands, they’re getting nutrition things and every athlete got it.
“When an NFL guy is sending a rower or a baseball player something like that, it makes you feel really good. Our kids are pumped, everybody’s saying thank you, and it’s a big-league gesture by a big-league Coug.”
As a first-round draft pick, Dillard signed a four-year contract with the Eagles valued at $12.3 million and collected a signing bonus worth nearly $7 million. But Dillard made a few prudent decisions before putting pen to paper, and hired a financial planner well before he saw his first paycheck.
“He’s a pretty frugal guy and he’s made some good choices,” Mitch said. “He’s had good people behind him to give him information and to learn from their knowledge. … He listens. He knows he doesn’t know it all and he’s a pretty humble guy.”
Philadelphia signed the two-time All-Pac-12 selection as a long-term replacement for veteran left tackle and nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters, but Dillard saw plenty of action as a rookie, playing in all 16 regular-season games and making four starts when Peters was injured. Dillard also played in Philadelphia’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
“This is kind of new territory for him, being that he’s been in the league just a year,” Mitch said. “Going into his second year, there’s a lot of things you just don’t experience in that rookie year. You’re experiencing all sorts of different things, learning how to be out there on your own and with a job and now it’s a career. Just, what are you going to be like when all that stuff starts happening?
“It’s nice to see he’s thinking about doing those types of things.”
A lightly recruited prospect, Dillard weighed just 240 pounds when he signed with WSU over Idaho, Eastern Washington and Portland State as a senior at Woodinville (Washington) High School. He completed one of the most impressive transformations in school history, leaving the Cougars as a 310-pound All-American who started 39 consecutive games at left tackle.
“I think he appreciates they gave him the opportunity as kind of a skinny high school kid with potential,” Mitch said. “To come and develop into the player he is right now.”
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