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Original Issue

Vintage Rivalry The former Cougars quarterback savored his showdowns with the Huskies

My hometown of Walla Walla, a wheat-farming community of 30,000
not far from the Idaho border, is known for two things: It's the
home of the sweet onion and the state penitentiary. On the day
in 1993 when the New England Patriots selected me with the
first pick in the NFL draft, there was news about the case of a
notorious killer in the state pen. So the next morning the
story of my going to the pros didn't even make the front page
of the Walla Walla paper. ¶ Football does, however, make
headlines in Washington, and the annual Apple Cup game between
Washington State and Washington is the state's biggest sporting
event. What makes the game special is that it's a rivalry
between the haves (Washington) and the have nots (Washington
State). When you grow up on the eastern side of the state, as I
did, you view the people on the western side as rich and
snobby. Seattle is, after all, the home of Microsoft (and UW).
We Easterners like to think of ourselves as blue-collar,
hardworking farming people. So the Apple Cup isn't merely a
battle of football programs; it's a battle of ideals and

My father, Mac, was a 210-pound offensive lineman at Washington
who for 30 years ran the All-Northwest Football Camp with a
friend named Shorty Bennett. From the time I was a rugrat I spent
every summer running around the camp, hanging out with players
such as Fred Biletnikoff, Kenny Easley, Steve Largent, Ronnie
Lott, Warren Moon, Jim Plunkett and Ken Stabler. Not only was it
the highlight of every year, but it was also where I learned how
to be a quarterback.

Each year after the camp ended, my dad would invite all the pro
players to a party at nearby Lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho. One
year, when I was about two, I was standing on the shore while my
dad was talking on the dock with Biletnikoff, who was in his
first year of coaching at the camp. My dad looked at me on the
shore and then turned to Fred and said, "I guess we're going to
find out real soon if you and I are going to be friends." Fred
asked why. My dad said, "Because that's my son over there peeing
in your loafers." Fred laughed it off, and they ended up becoming
good buddies.

Since my dad played for Washington, I grew up a Huskies fan,
always decked out in purple-and-gold gear. We attended a few
Apple Cups, and I best remember the 1988 game. It was snowy,
windy and cold, and my dad and I watched quarterback Timm
Rosenbach and Washington State beat the Huskies 32-31. I was a
high school sophomore then, and seeing the upstart Cougars win
started to pull me in the direction of Pullman.

I decided to sign with Washington State mainly because of coach
Mike Price. He was a guy I felt really comfortable around.
Another reason was that Mark Brunell and Billy Joe Hobert already
were at Washington. Had I signed with the Huskies, I was likely
to be buried on the depth chart.

My alltime favorite football memory is of the 1992 Apple Cup. The
Huskies came to Pullman ranked No. 5 and were going to the Rose
Bowl. We played in a huge snowstorm, and on one play I threw a
long pass to Phillip Bobo, who caught it for a touchdown and slid
into a snow pile in the back of the end zone. My teammates and I
ran downfield and jumped onto the snow pile with him and started
throwing snowballs, acting like a bunch of kids. We won 42-23.

Five months later I was in the NFL, where the state of Washington
has sent more than its share of quarterbacks, including Brunell,
Hobert, Moon, Rosenbach, Chris Chandler, Cary Conklin, Brock and
Damon Huard, Mark Rypien, Jack Thompson and Marques Tuiasosopo. I
think the state's quarterback tradition can be traced to the
level of offensive sophistication in its high school ball. You
don't see too many teams running the wing T or the option where I
grew up.

Even though my wife and I now live in Montana, we're there only
to escape from the world in the off-season. I have plans to get
back home someday. Some quarterback friends of mine--Dan Marino,
Rick Mirer and Damon Huard--and I have looked into buying acreage
in the state to make some red wine. The land in Washington is
pretty fertile for grapes and for football. Besides, it's home.

The Buffalo Bills' Drew Bledsoe is a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback.