Yep. Everything about the 5-10, 179-pound 18-year-old from La Habra, Calif., exuded resolve and spirit.
His demeanor. His voice. His words. Everything.
For a team struggling mightily this season, his positive presence was something of an eye opener.
The Cougars had squandered opportunities and lost to Cal 31-17, but Bartolone would have none of it. He wanted to talk about the good stuff.
More specifically, he wanted to talk about the fired up students and fans who had spent the last three hours cheering on their Cougs.
“It was awesome,” Bartolone told the throng of reporters. “It was a great experience and I always love playing in front of the home crowd. There’s nothing like playing in front of these fans in Pullman.”
His work on the field against the Bears was testament to his point. He scored both of the Cougars' touchdowns, connecting with Jeff Tuel on an 8-yard strike in the third quarter and a 6-yarder in the fourth.
In all, he had six catches for 44 yards, putting an exclamation mark on his development this season. In his last three games, Bartolone has 20 receptions for 153 hashes and three touchdowns. For the season, he has 33 catches -- third-most on the team behind Marquess Wilson and Isiah Myers-- for 267 yards and three TDs.
“I love that kid to death,” Tuel said of Bartolone. “He’s a competitor who wants to win and he wants to score every time. He’s one of the hardest workers on this team. As a freshman, he’s really got a great opportunity to come here and be a great player in the future because he can do some good things and he’s disciplined. I’m very excited for him.”
Bartolone was asked during the post-game press conference if he felt the need to pick up his tempo when Wilson left the game following a helmet-to-helmet hit. His answer showed maturity beyond his years.
“Obviously when a dominant player like Marquess goes down you feel like you need to step it up, but you should always play like that,” Bartolone said. “You have to be ready to go at all times. In this offense anyone can get the ball. Week in and week out, it depends who is open and who is going to make a play.”
In Mike Leach’s Air Raid, it’s almost become expected for smaller receivers to flourish. These types of players are often compared to Wes Welker, one of Leach's greats at Texas Tech, and thus far the similarities for Bartolone in their respective freshman seasons are pretty balanced.
Bartolone is listed at 5-10, 179 pounds, which appears to the naked eye as being generous all the way around. Heck, when he walked into the press room Saturday, at least one reporter initially thought he was one of the sports information department assistants.
But similar to Welker, Bartolone plays bigger than his size and in a physical manner -- he's tough to bring down. While at Texas Tech, Welker was listed at 5-9, 190 pounds. At the end of his freshman season, Welker’s final stats were 26 receptions for 334 yards and no touchdowns.
“He plays tough and plays older than he is,” Leach said of Bartolone. “He’s one of those guys who went to the prom a couple months ago, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a freshman that offers a team more than Bartolone offers us.”
What Bartolone has offered more than anything this year, has been a dependable inside receiver who uses his physical toughness to beat defenders off the line of scrimmage to get open in space.
During his teleconference on Tuesday, Leach referred to his corps of wideouts as “fragile little receivers” and said “hell no” when asked if they were tough. Leach clarified his answer a few seconds later when a reporter brought up Bartolone.
“He may be tougher than the rest of them,” Leach said. “At least last game he certainly was. He did get after it the last game and I thought he made some great plays with his two touchdowns. He’s certainly ahead of his time as a freshman.”
Bartolone arrived at Washington State this summer as an under-the-radar prospect. Until Leach arrived at WSU, Air Force was his lone scholarship offer.
“I wanted to come in and help this team in whatever way possible and make some plays,” Bartolone said. “I really don’t think of myself as a freshman out there.”
He doesn’t carry himself as one either.
BARTOLONE CONGRATULATES FELLOW WIDEOUT ISIAH MYERS AFTER TD VS. EASTERN WASHINGTON ON SEPT. 8.