PULLMAN – The football secured by his right hand, Kannon Katzer cruised into the end zone and took two steps before raising his left arm and pointing a single index finger toward the sky.
If Katzer had to guess, the woman looking down would’ve been in tears, bubbling with pride and eager to meet the Washington State running back for a postgame hug.
“She would’ve been super happy,” Katzer said.
Katzer’s gesture, which came after his first college touchdown, was directed toward his mother Melissa, who died in an ATV accident on Aug. 29, 2020, following Katzer’s record-setting prep career at Mt. Spokane High and before he joined the Cougars as a preferred walk-on.
Opportunity has been scarce since Katzer rolled up more than 3,000 all-purpose yards as a high school senior, earning him a walk-on opportunity at WSU but no scholarship offers from the Division I level.
With the Cougars nursing a 38-7 lead on Saturday against Colorado State, Katzer, who hasn’t been one of three running backs listed on the team’s depth chart, was called into the game for WSU’s final offensive drive.
He was stopped for no gain on his first college carry, but his second rushing attempt unfolded the way so many did for Katzer during a decorated career in the Greater Spokane League that saw him score 39 all-purpose touchdowns as a senior.
Katzer followed a blocker, broke through a hole and saw nothing but open field, scampering for 24 yards before he was brought down by Colorado State’s Chigozie Anusiem. That was followed by a 22-yard carry on second-and-9 and a 7-yard gain up the middle, setting the Cougars up at CSU’s 1-yard line.
“I saw the green and I was like, ‘Oh man I can get running,’” Katzer said, describing the 24-yard carry. “Then I got tackled.”
On the front door of the end zone, Katzer was stood up for no gain on second down, but the 5-foot-9, 195-pound tailback got the ball for the sixth time, collecting a handoff from quarterback Cam Ward and pushing his way into the end zone for his first college touchdown.
Katzer’s gesture to the sky was the culmination of a moment that he felt has been a long time coming.
“It wasn’t just me that got myself here,” he said. “My family and my dad, my brother … of course this team and coaches. (I’ve) gotten here because a lot of people helped me get here. Of course I’ve got to deal with the things I’ve faced, but a lot of people helped me get to where I am so it’s a blessing.”
With six carries for 54 yards, Katzer was the game’s second-leading rusher, behind only WSU teammate Nakia Watson, who has eight carries for 74 yards.
“For Katz, it’s special and hopefully something he’ll never forget,” WSU coach Jake Dickert said. “When guys work that hard and sacrifice themselves for the betterment of the team – but I’ve seen it. He used to terrorize us on scout team and I call him ‘Cutback Katz’ and we couldn’t control him.”
Prior to Saturday’s game, Katzer’s most impressive performance as a college running back came in WSU’s spring game last April, when he rushed nine times for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
“Every scrimmage he pours his heart into there,” Dickert said, “so to get that opportunity to carry the ball like that is inspiring not just for me but for that locker room full of guys that are just so happy for him and what he accomplished.
“A lot of people said he couldn’t play in the Pac-12. He went out there and did it and scored a touchdown. That’s pretty special.”
Teammates celebrated Katzer’s fourth-quarter touchdown, mobbing the running back once he returned to the sideline with just over a minute remaining in Saturday’s game.
“I’m so happy for him, I love that guy, we all love him,” WSU receiver Donovan Ollie said. “He comes every day, puts his all into it. He never takes anything lightly and we’re just all happy for him.”
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