Washington State University’s football program has a very large and loyal fan following, thanks in large part to the product they have put on the field and the close ties the school has to its former students and its fans. Over the years, the school has produced quite a few NFL players, including quarterbacks. Here is a look back at the players who have played quarterback for the WSU Cougars and then went on to be drafted into the National Football League.
In the sixth round of the 1963 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears drafted WSU quarterback Dave Mathieson. Mathieson didn’t make it in the NFL, but he would move on to play briefly in the Canadian Football League. Though he is not the most famous WSU quarterback ever, he still ranks very high statistically at the school in a number of different categories.
Ty Paine had a very successful career at WSU during the early 1970s. He would go on to be picked in the ninth round of the 1973 NFL Draft by the New York Giants.
Jack Thompson, nicknamed the Throwin’ Samoan, starred for the Cougars in the mid 1970s. He would be drafted in 1979 by the Cincinnati Bengals with the third pick in the first round of that year’s NFL Draft. He played from 1979 to 1982 with the Bengals and then moved on to end his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he spent the 1983 and 1984 seasons. Thompson had an NFL career record of 4-17 as a starter which may have also had something to do with the quality of teams he played on.
Clete Casper quarterbacked the WSU Cougars during the early 1980s and was instrumental in some of the team’s success then, including getting to the 1981 Holiday Bowl. Though he wouldn’t go on to have a pro career, he would be drafted into the NFL. He was taken in the 12th round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams.
In the 1986 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected Mark Rypien out of Washington State University in the 6th round. Rypien began his career on injured reserve, but eventually proved he was starter quality. He and the Redskins would go on to win Super Bowl XXVI, Rypien would even be named MVP of the game. Other accomplishments of his career included being named to two Pro Bowls, winning the 1991 NFL NFC Offensive Player of the Year Award, and being named as a member of the 70 Greatest Redskins. He played for the Redskins for eight seasons, from 1986 to 1993, before ending it with seasons on the rosters of the Cleveland Browns (1994), St. Louis Rams (1995,97), Philadelphia Eagles (1996), Atlanta Falcons (1998), Indianapolis Colts (2001), and Seattle Seahawks (2002).
Timm Rosenbach was drafted in the first round of the 1989 NFL Supplemental Draft by the Phoenix Cardinals. He saw spot duty during his rookie season, but would go on to start every game of his second year in the league. Injuries forced him out of the NFL by 1992 and in 1994 he attempted a comeback with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. He would then be signed by the New Orleans Saints in 1995, but spend the entire season on the injured reserve list. Following his NFL career, he would return to his alma mater and be the Cougars’ quarterback coach from 2003 to 2007.
Drew Bledsoe was a highly thought of quarterback coming out of WSU. The New England Patriots picked him with the first overall pick of the 1993 NFL Draft. He would go on to play nine seasons for the Patriots, three for the Buffalo Bills, and two for the Dallas Cowboys. Bledsoe would help lead the Patriots to the Super Bowl in the mid 1990s.
Ryan Leaf was drafted with the second overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. Peyton Manning was selected ahead of him with the first pick in the draft. Leaf had been a dominant college quarterback and there were high hopes for him in the NFL. He won his first two games during his rookie season, but after a tumultuous three years, he would be released in 2001. He then appeared in the 2001 preaseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and during the regular season with the Dallas Cowboys before being cut by both teams. He retired after attempting one last comeback with the Seattle Seahawks prior to the start of the 2002 season. He finished his career with a 4-17 record as a starter with 13 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.
Alex Brink was drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. He failed to advance past the practice squad with the team and would eventually move on to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.