Few faces from area college football programs saw much camera time in HBO’s popular NFL docuseries “Hard Knocks,” which concluded its 15th season on Tuesday.
The five-episode series chronicled preseason camps of both the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, two organizations seen trying to navigate the coronavirus safety measures, speak about social justice during a time of unrest, unveil to their new $5 billion So-Fi Stadium, and, like previous seasons, take a raw and in-depth look at life in NFL as players try to make their respective 53-man rosters.
The Rams had their trio of former Eastern Washington stars in receivers Cooper Kupp and Nsimba Webster and linebacker Samson Ebukam. Easop Winston, an undrafted rookie free-agent receiver from Washington State, also appeared in the Rams’ preseason camp.
The Chargers have one local player in rookie Jeff Cotton, another undrafted free-agent who was an All-American at Idaho last season.
None of the five local players were featured or part of the show’s several storylines, but each was seen at least once.
When one local player did speak on camera, though, it was memorable. Here’s a recap of the former Eagles, Cougars and Vandals’ appearances.
Kupp speaks upKupp, an often quiet figure and quarterback Jared Goff’s favorite target, heads into his fourth NFL season after hauling in 94 passes for 1,661 yards and touchdowns last season.
He was seen in several scenes but was rarely heard speaking in five episodes despite being one of the team’s primary weapons.
In Episode 4, which was centered around player and coach reactions of the recent string of police violence involving Black men, Kupp discussed racial injustice while on the sidelines of a team practice.
“If you’re not aware of what’s going on by now, you’re just choosing not to,” Kupp said.
He continued to discuss the topic with fellow standout receiver Robert Woods on how the issue should be addressed.
“Is it about education? Is it about raising people up? Is it about dealing with the people who are in power now?,” Kupp said. “That’s what we need to figure out.”
Ebukam sound bites Ebukam, who has played in over 50 percent of the Rams’ defensive snaps the three previous seasons and is the only former EWU player to start in a Super Bowl, brought some comedy to the series.
The glasses-wearing Ebukam was curious about the coronavirus needles and nose swabs in the first episode, commenting “that’s a big (expletive) needle” to a nurse drawing his blood.
Ebukam, drafted with Kupp in 2017, wasn’t too thrilled about the first few practices without pads, either.
“Offensive lineman, bro. Sweaty as hell,” Ebukam said. “I’m about to go with no gloves.”
“Nobody likes the (padless practices),” he continued. “No pads suck, bro. I’m over there hitting blubber. I don’t want that. It’s straight grease. It’s terrible, man!”
Webster makes the team – again Webster made the 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie last season and was used primarily as a kick and punt returner.
He made the 53-man roster again after roster cuts earlier this week, but the former EWU speedster didn’t get a word in on the show.
Webster was in several “Hard Knocks” clips running routes, returning kicks and was seen catching a pass in one of the Rams’ two scrimmages, though.
At the beginning of the series when players were getting tested, the camera focused on a mask-wearing Webster after getting his nose swabbed in a coronavirus test.
Winston Jr. cut The most airtime former Washington State receiver and undrafted rookie free agent got was being seen briefly in the season finale that featured the Rams’ second scrimmage.
Winston caught a short pass but fumbled, leading to a scoop-and-score touchdown by linebacker Clay Johnston, who was featured throughout the series as the longshot rookie trying to make the team after being drafted in the seventh round.
Winston ultimately was cut and is reportedly trying out for the Buffalo Bills this week.
Cotton makes practice squadLike Winston, Cotton had the chore of being an undrafted rookie trying to make a roster without preseason games – the league canceled them this season due to the pandemic – to potentially show what he can do.
The former Idaho star receiver didn’t make the Chargers’ 53-man roster, but he did carve out a spot on the organization’s 15-man practice squad.
Cotton was rarely seen in the series but was often in the same position room with one of the show’s most popular figures, inspirational Chargers receiver coach Phil McGeoghan, who garnered a lot of camera time in the five episodes.
McGeoghan – like Cotton – was an undrafted free agent receiver in his playing career from a Football Championship Subdivision school, Maine.
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