For the parents of Washington State football players, it’s not always easy to find their way to Pullman and attend their sons’ final home games.
But it’s especially challenging for those who live on an island in Polynesia.
“I’m pretty stoked – my parents are coming out for the first time to watch me play college football,” rush linebacker Frankie Luvu said this week.
It’s not only his parents making the trip from American Samoa, but also seven of his eight siblings, as well as aunts and uncles.
The No. 25 Cougars (7-2, 4-2) wrap up their home schedule Saturday (12:30 p.m., FOX) against No. 18 Stanford (6-1, 5-1).
So the team will celebrate Senior Day early this year, barely into November, thanks to an odd schedule that had the Cougs playing at home five straight times in September. The pregame ceremony featuring 21 seniors and their relatives will seem particularly premature to coach Mike Leach, who’s not a Senior Day enthusiast anyway, but it will be a big deal to families like the Luvus.
The athlete’s mother accompanied him to Pullman when he enrolled at the school in 2014, but this is the first time his father has left Samoa. The family has been planning the trip for months, taking the first step early this week when they joined Luvu’s sister in Hawaii.
“I was trying to get my mom and dad to get their visa and get everything done,” Luvu said. “They got that taken care of, and my brother helped out.”
If recent trends continue, Luvu will put on a good show for his family. Moved from inside linebacker to the rush role this season, he has thrived at the new position, racking up 5.5 sacks, nine tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries.
Relatives of senior nose tackle Daniel Ekuale, another Samoan, will also attend their first Cougars game, Luvu said.
The Cougs’ highly influential senior class includes quarterback Luke Falk, tailbacks Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks and several others who have been instrumental in the program’s recent resurgence. The Cougars have already qualified for their third consecutive bowl appearance.
“They’re definitely responsible for turning this whole program around,” junior slotback Kyle Sweet said.
Among the seniors who have been starters or prominent backups in recent seasons are Cody O'Connell, Cole Madison, B.J. Salmonson, Robert Lewis, CJ Dimry, Marcellus Pippins, Robert Taylor, Peyton Pelluer, Isaac Dotson, Dylan Hanser, Garrett McBroom, Kirkland Parker and Erik Powell.
As usual, Leach is downplaying Senior Day festivities, which he sees as an unavoidable distraction.
“The reason it means very little is that we’re going to be very preoccupied going out there to play a game, and then we’re going to have three games after that, at least, and maybe four,” he said, alluding to the possibility of a berth in the Pac-12 championship game. “So there’s nothing that finishes for us. … It’s a little bit like celebrating the graduation of your kid when they’re a sophomore. You just have to wait until the time comes.”
On the other hand, “It’s certainly a great class and a great group of people,” Leach said, “that have kind of been through a lot, and done a great deal for each other – coaches, players, everybody as a team – and also for Washington State. I mean, I don’t want to diminish that in any way.”