Seen & Heard on Planet Coug

TRENT, HICKS lovin' them apples

FORMER WSU sackmaster Mkristo Bruce is livin' large. The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed him to a two-year contract. And he and wife Evelyn are expecting child No. 2. "We are a Coug family all the way," Mkristo tells CF.C. "My wife and I graduated from Wazzu and our son Mkristo Jr. was born in Pullman -- we gotta figure out a way to have our next child in Pullman to keep the tradition going!"

Bruce spent most of this past season on the Jaguars' practice squad but then was activated late in the campaign. He was brought into the Jags' camp last summer mostly as a place-filler for first-round draft pick Derrick Harvey, who was holding out. Contract talks with Harvey were slow, giving Bruce enough time to turn heads his direction. That's what you call making the most of an opportunity.

ANOTHER COUGAR GREAT, Jason Gesser, has had his pro career cut short. But the shutdown of the 22-year-old Arena Football League – where he played for the Utah Blaze the last three seasons – is simply turning him into a full-time coach.

During the AFL off-seasons, Gesser worked as a high school assistant coach in the Tacoma area. Now, he says, he's laser-focused on coaching. As part of that focus, he just formed a business, Jason Gesser Elite Sports, to help young athletes – especially quarterbacks – reach their potential. Gesser is kicking things off with a series of youth clinics in Puyallup this month and next. To learn more, head to his webpage – jasongesser.com. It's still under construction, but will point you to his Facebook page which has all the details.

BELATED KUDOS FOR Cougar senior linebacker Greg Trent. At the season-ending team banquet last month, he came away with a hat trick. He was named MVP of the defense, earned most inspirational recognition, and was presented the Tim Petek Strongest Man Award.

A number of NFL draft forecasters rank Trent among the top 25 inside linebackers available in April's draft. And one, Consensus Draft Services, has him rated the No. 8 inside 'backer. Lacking ideal size (he's 5-10), it looks like he'll be pegged as a late-round draft choice or priority free agent.

Trent's classmate, receiver Brandon Gibson is generally thought to be among the top 100 or so players in the upcoming draft. He'll have a golden opportunity to improve his draft status at the Senior Bowl later this month. The teams there are coached by NFL coaches.

Looking to the future, running back James Montgomery was named WSU's scout team offensive player of the year for 2008 and defensive end Adam Coerper was named scout team defensive player of the year.

WITH THE COUNT DOWN to the start of major league spring workouts nearing single digits, a glimpse of the Philadelphia Phillies' roster reminded me of a conversation many years ago. It went like this: Ryne Sandberg, the three-sport star from Spokane's North Central High, was making a huge mistake by signing a minor league contract with the Phillies rather than take his scholarship offer to play quarterback for Jim Walden's Cougars.

Ryne, now a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, probably made the right decision. I was reminded of his tale when glancing at the Phillies' roster the other day, because there in bold black and white was the name Kyle Kendrick. Kyle, a Mount Vernon product, won 11 games last season for the world champion Phillies. And like Ryne Sandberg, Kyle was at one point ticketed for Pullman. In 2003 he signed a letter of intent to play quarterback at WSU and moonlight as a pitcher for the Cougar baseball team.

I have to confess. Kendrick, who made $445,000 last season, probably made the right call, too!

Another former WSU football recruit hasn't had as much success in baseball as Kendrick. Billy Petrick, a long-snapping phenom from Chicago who signed with the Cougars in 2002 in Mike Price's final class, also opted for the baseball diamond, signing with his hometown Cubs. Despite injuries, he made his way to the Big Show for a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2007 -- and then injuries proceeded to ruin his 2008. He's now a free agent. Some of you message board posters may remember Billy keeping us updated periodically on his travels. Seemed like a great young man.

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