Nooksack Valley High, where Salmonson stars, is a Class 1A school in Everson, a Whatcom County town so small there are no stoplights. It’s about five miles from the Canadian border as the crow flies.
Major-college football scholarships are a rarity out of the state's small schools, where the bodies are few and the limelight far away.
But technology today, says Nooksack Valley head coach Robb Myhre, is a great equalizer. “He definitely stood out on the field and with all the technology these days; it was easy for him to get noticed.”
Well, not that easy. His only major-conference scholarship offer came from WSU. He’s in Pullman this weekend for his official visit.
The Cougs found themselves a good one, says Myhre. Salmonson is athletic, tough, possesses a great work ethic, and is a natural leader, he says. Off the field, he adds, Salmonson has a great sense of humor and is very close to his family. “When he’s not at school or playing football, you can probably find him out with his dad and brother chopping wood.”
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If Salmonson makes a name for himself at WSU he will join a celebrated list of standout Cougars (see below) who came to Pullman from small towns.
Among those crimson luminaries from the hinterlands, Will Derting has to be the most celebrated of them, having come from a portion of Okanogan County so remote the family didn't have telephone service. Josh Parrish, a standout offensive lineman at WSU during the late Mike Price years, was from Chewelah, and Steve Busch, an All-Coast lineman in the early 70s, was from Colton.
To put the size of those communities into perspective, consider that Anacortes -- the home of Rien Long, WSU's 2002 Outland Trophy winner -- is a veritable metropolis by comparison with a population of 15,000.
If you combine Everson, Salmonson’s home town, with the nearby town of Nooksack you’d have enough people to fill maybe one-third of Beasley Coliseum.
Salmonson was an Associated Press Class 1A All-State pick on the offensive line this past season and on the defensive line a year ago. He was “discovered,” if you will, by Paul Wulff, who knew first hand that Nooksack could produce quality linemen. When Wulff was first starting out in coaching as an assistant at Eastern Washington, one of his finest was Tom Ackerman, a Nooksack High product who went on to play eight seasons in the NFL.
Myhre says he sees some similarities between Ackerman and Salmonson. “Tom has the quickness, but B.J. is definitely bigger in high school, but both were phenomenal athletes.”
THE WSU ALL-SMALL-TOWN TEAM
(population 15,000 or less)
QB 1999-03 MATT KEGEL, Havre, MT
Led Cougs to 10 wins, including Holiday Bowl over Texas, in ‘03
RB 1928-30 ELMER SCHWARTZ, Port Orchard
All-Coast and second-team All-American
RB 1974-77 DAN DOORNINK, Wapato
Played for New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks
RB 1940-42 BOB KENNEDY, Sandpoint, ID
First-team All-American and All-Coast
RB 1982-85 RUEBEN MAYES, North Battleford, Sask.
Heisman Trophy top 10; College Football Hall of Fame
WR 1993-96 CHAD CARPENTER, Weiser, ID
Caught 47 passes in '96, then played in NFL
WR 1965-67 DOUG FLANSBURG, Palouse
First-team All-Coast two years
WR 1947-49 FRAN POLSFOOT, Montesano
NFL Pro-Bowler, long-time NFL assistant coach
TE 2003-06 CODY BOYD, Ferndale
Multi-year starter who had NFL cup of coffee
TE 1987-89 DOUG WELLSANDT, Ritzville
Played for New York Jets
OL 2000-02 JOSH PARRISH, Chewelah
OL 2000-02 CALVIN ARMSTRONG, Centralia
First-team All-Pac-10 twice; played in NFL
OL 1969-71 STEVE BUSCH, Colton
First-team All-Coast and all-conference
OL 1928-30 MEL HEIN, Burlington
NFL and College Football Hall of Famer
OL 1994-97 JASON McENDOO, Cosmopolis (Aberdeen)
First-team All-Pac-10; 3 years in NFL
OL 1920-21 EARL DUNLAP, Dayton
First-team all-conference three years
OL 2010-13 JOHN FULLINGTON, Belfair (North Mason)
Started as a true freshman; will be a junior in 2012.
LB 2002-05 WILL DERTING, Okanogan
Two-time all-conference selection
LB 1993-96 JAMES DARLING, Kettle Falls
Second-team All-American, long-time NFL player
LB 1948-50 LAVERNE TORGESON, LaCrosse
All-conference, All-Coast, NFL All-Pro
DL 1950-52 HARLAND SVARE, Poulsbo
Long-time NFL player and coach
DL 2000-02 RIEN LONG, Anacortes
Outland Trophy winner and Tennessee Titan
DL 1978-81 KEN COLLIN, Cashmere
Played for New England Patriots
DL 1963-65 WAYNE FOSTER, Port Orchard
DL 1929-31 TURK EDWARDS, Clarkston
NFL and College Football Hall of Famer
DB 1974-77 KEN GREENE, Omak
All-American, played in NFL for Chargers and Cardinals
DB 1957-59 DON ELLERSICK, Diamond Lake (Newport)
East-West Shrine Game pick, played for L.A. Rams
DB 1947-49 FRANK MATAYA, Roslyn (Cle Elum)
Multi-sport Cougar, in WSU Hall of Fame
P 2002-05 KYLE BASLER, Elma
WSU record-setter, ’03 Holiday Bowl MVP
Some other small-town WSU notables that come to mind:
OL 1979-81 Mark McKay, LaCrosse; OL 1979-80 John Little, Raymond; OL 1935-57 Al Hoptowit; OL 1973-74 Steve Morton, Chehalis; RB 1998-01 Jeremy Thielbahr, Sandpoint ID; DB 1983-85 Ron Collins, Cashmere; LB 2001-05 Pat Bennett, Forks; DL 1978-80 Brian Flones, Sedro Woolley; TE 1970-72 Jim Forrest, Ephrata; P 2007-10 Reid Forrest, Ephrata; TEs early 80s, Chris and Vince Leighton, Spangle; LB Matt Mullennix, Spangle; TE Andrei Lintz, Meridian; OL Brian Danaher, Colfax; TE Jon Kincaid, Colfax
Cody Secker, Barry Bolton and Greg Witter contributed to this report.