CHENEY — The mantra faces its ultimate dilemma here, it seems.
How does it go? Once a Coug, always a Coug?
What about Marquess Wilson?
Washington State’s career record-holder for receiving yards is preparing for the NFL draft, and hoped to bolster what he felt was a successful showing at the NFL scouting combine by putting up similarly impressive numbers here, at Eastern Washington’s pro day, on Wednesday.
EWU had no problem with the arrangement — former WSU quarterback and Wilson’s close friend, Jeff Tuel, was going to throw in Cheney, too — but an NFL rule prohibits players from larger schools participating at pro days at smaller schools.
And though the Cougars are holding their own pro day this morning in Pullman — Tuel will participate — the school has seemingly made it clear that Wilson is no longer welcome around its football program.
Wilson’s camp tells it this way: He wants badly to run, lift, and catch passes at WSU’s pro day. The school apparently feels otherwise.
“WSU wouldn’t let me do my pro day there,” Wilson told The Spokesman-Review inside EWU’s weight room on Wednesday, watching along with the rest of the gathered crowd as several Eagles prospects went through drills for a group of NFL scouts.
“If they let me, I’d love to go watch. I’d love to participate in it.”
This excommunication is not surprising to most, and Wilson said he isn’t shocked by it, either. He knows he left the team under controversial circumstances in November. His allegations of abuse by the coaching staff prompted a dual-pronged review of the program that ultimately exonerated coach Mike Leach and his assistants, but the lengthy investigation didn’t help the school’s image.
So that bridge appears so thoroughly charred it cannot again be crossed.
Months later, does he have any regrets about the manner in which he departed?
What about leaving the team?
“When I think about my teammates …” Wilson said, pausing. “I honestly don’t know. Not really. It was just my decision and I had to stick with it.”
Wilson, who was clocked at 4.51 in the 40-yard dash at last week’s combine, said he met with all but about eight or 10 NFL teams in Indianapolis last week, and said he thinks the interview process went “really well.”
His agent, Cameron Foster, says that shouldn’t be a surprise.
“With respect to character-building, Marquess has great character, so he hasn’t had to rebuild anything,” said Foster, who also represents Tuel and three EWU players. “People question about why he did what he did, but I think most of the questions are being answered in his interviews.
“Marquess had really great interviews at the NFL combine, from what I’ve heard from NFL teams that I’ve spoken with. Marquess is a good, genuine kid, and teams see that.”
Foster said one team actually told Wilson he did “the honorable thing” by removing himself from a situation that made him feel uncomfortable.
As for whether his draft status will be affected by all the noise, it’s hard to say. Wilson said he’s been running and lifting by himself in Pullman recently after sharing a residence and working out with Tuel and EWU receivers Greg Herd and Brandon Kaufman in Florida.
“I’d be guessing if I told you a draft round,” Foster said. “But we’re hoping that he’s going to be in the upper rounds, and feedback I’ve gotten from NFL teams after his combine performances is that’s where he should be landing.”
CBS Sports projects Wilson as a sixth- or seventh-round pick, though his combine performance and private workouts in the coming weeks could help build Wilson’s stock.
“I’d love to go in a high round, but if I went in a low round it wouldn’t hurt,” Wilson said. “Everybody has to work for something in their life.”