For a school known for its signal callers, we’ll begin this overview of the decade’s best with our choice at quarterback -- a guy who gave us hope in 1998 and 1999 and so many unforgettable memories in 2000, 2001 and 2002. In fact, Jason Gesser is not only the All-Decade QB, but also our choice as Offensive Player of the Decade.
The winningest QB in school history, he led the Cougs to the 2003 Rose Bowl and finished seventh in Heisman Trophy voting. Along the way, he was voted co-Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year with Carson Palmer, and named first-team All-America by College Football News.
Perhaps surprisingly, Gesser was not a unanimous choice for All-Decade QB among the seven panelists charged with picking the team. Two panelists made a strong case for Alex Brink, who passed for more yards and TDs than any quarterback in school history, and also beat the Huskies three times.
Many of the All-Decade selections were unanimous or near-unanimous. But certainly not all. The center and tight end positions, for instance, generated serious debate, as did wide receiver, where Devard Darling and Nakoa McElrath were edged out despite notable support. Will Derting was a unanimous choice at linebacker, but the other two LB spots prompted some hand-wringing.
Twenty-eight players were chosen -- 11 on each side of the ball, plus 1 captain on each side, and 4 special team selections.
The selections are dominated by players from the glory days of 2001, 2002 and 2003. Indeed, those three seasons collectively generated more victories (30) than the other seven seasons in the decade put together (27).
Of the 28, a whopping 19 are from the state of Washington. Seven are from California and one each hails from Hawaii, Arizona and Michigan.
Without further ado, here is our All-Decade team ...
QB: Jason Gesser(Honolulu)
Team captain an unprecedented three times. Held most of the school’s passing records when he left. Played final season with bad ribs most of the way and then guided the Cougs to the title-clinching win over UCLA with one leg in a protective boot. Honorable mention: Alex Brink, Matt Kegel
RB: Jerome Harrison (Kalamazoo, Mich.)
A top ten finisher in Heisman Trophy balloting and consensus first-team All-America selection after racking up a whopping 1,900 yards in 2005. Honorable mention: Jonathon Smith, Dave Minnich, Jermaine Green
C: Kenny Alfred (Gig Harbor)
A Rimington Award candidate three straight seasons. Started 44 games for WSU. Earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009 and honorable mention plaudits in 2008. Also a first-team all-academic pick. Honorable mention: Tyler Hunt, Nick Milhaueser
OL: Derrick Roche (Kent)
Two-time first-team All-Pac-10 pick and 2002 first-team All-America by the American Coaches Association.
OL: Calvin Armstrong (Centralia)
Three-year mainstay who earned first-team all-Pac-10 as a sophomore and senior and honorable mention honors as a junior.
OL: Josh Parrish (Chewelah)
A fixture on WSU’s three consecutive 10-wins teams, he was first-team All-Pac-10 in 2003.
OL: Sam Lightbody (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
Checked in at 6-9, 319 pounds. A two-year starter who also played significantly for the Cougars as a freshman and sophomore. Named second-team All-Pac-10 in ’04.
Honorable mention: Joey Hollenbeck, Norvell Holmes, Charles Harris, Bobby Byrd
TE: Troy Bienemann (Mountain View, Calif.)
Made 94 catches in Cougar career, ranking No. 2 all time on the WSU tight end list -- one catch shy of the all time mark.Selected second-team All-Pac-10 in 2003 and 2005.
Honorable mention: Cody Boyd, Jed Collins
WR: Jason Hill (San Francisco)
Caught more TD passes (32) than anyone in WSU history. His 2,704 receving yards is No. 2 on the all-time list and his catches, numbering 148, is No. 4. He was twice awarded second-team All-Pac-10 honors.
WR: Brandon Gibson (Puyallup)
All-time WSU leader in receving yards (2,756) and No. 2 in receptions (182). Chosen first-team All-Pac-10 and third team All-America following his junior campaign.
WR: Michael Bumpus (Culver City, Calif.)
Caught more footballs (195) than any Cougar in history, and one of only 10 WSU receivers to break 2,000 yards in a career. Also returned 80 punts for school record 801 yards. Named second-team or honorable mention All-Pac-10 four straight seasons.
Honorable mention: Nakoa McElrath, Mike Bush, Devard Darling, Jerome Riley
CAPT: Collin Henderson (Puyallup)
Team leader and classy guy who did it all, playing receiver, punt returner, holder and trick-play QB. He completed an eye-popping 11 of 12 passes for 575 yards and 6 TDs in his career. Honorable mention: Dave Minnich
LB: Will Derting (Okanogan)
Injuries kept this fan favorite out of the NFL, but there's no keeping him off our all-decade squad. Burst onto the scene with a three interception performance against Nevada as a redshirt freshman, returning one of those for a school record 98 yards. Before an injury shortened senior year, he logged 179 tackles including 11 sacks during his sophomore and junior campaigns. Named first-team, second team, and honorable mention all-conference his sophomore, junior, and senior years, respectively.
LB: Raonall Smith (Gig Harbor)
Named second-team all-conference in 2003. Finished his Wazzu career with 11 stops against Purdue in the 2001 Sun Bowl, earning the game's MVP honors. Ranks in WSU career top 10 in tackles for loss. Chosen as the 38th player of the 2002 NFL draft.
LB: Scott Davis (Kennewick)
Posted 247 career tackles for the Cougs, with 25.5 for loss. Made an immediate impact on the Cougar D, being named to the Freshman all-conference squad. Chosen honorable mention all-conference his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. Honorable mention: Donnie Jackson, James Price, Al Genatone, Mawuli Davis, Greg Trent
DE: D.D. Acholonu (Seattle)
The most prolific sack-master at WSU this side of DeWayne Patterson, ranking No. 2 on the career list (32.5) and No. 2 (2003) and No. 10 (2001) on the single-season list. Tied for tops in the nation in sacks in 2003 with 16.5 and was named first team All-Pac-10 by ESPN. Also posted three sacks against Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl. Helped WSU become the nation's most prolific sacking team the first four years of the decade (158 sacks).
DE: Mkristo Bruce (Renton)
AP and Walter Camp second-team All-America in 2006. Holds two of the top 10 spots on WSU's single-season sacks list. He's No. 3 in career sacks (29.5) and No. 2 in career tackles for loss (45.5) and had five sacks in a single game against Stanford in 2006, tying the all-time Pac-10 mark. Honorable mention: Isaac Brown, Fred Shavies, Adam Braidwood
DT: Rien Long (Anacortes)
Outland Trophy winner and consensus All-America in 2002 following the most dominant season ever by a WSU tackle -- 21.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks.
DT: Jeremey Williams (Spokane)
Overshadowed by an Outland Trophy winner and All-American, his work in the trenches was crucial to the Cougs' three 10-win seasons. Twice given all-conference honorable mention. Honorable mention: Tai Tupai, Ropati Pituatoa
S: Erik Coleman (Spokane)
COLEMAN, DAVID AND TRUFANT. IRONICALLY, LAMONT THOMPSON WAS STANDING 2 FEET AWAY WHEN THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN.
Great hitter with a nose for the ball. Earned first-team All-Pac-10 and honorable mention All-America honors in 2003.
S: Lamont Thompson (Richmond, Calif.)
A first-team All-American in 2001 who set both the school and Pac-10 record for career interceptions (24).
CB: Jason David (Covina, Calif.)
All-conference performer who picked off 16 passes for a school record 318 yards and three TDs. Also holds WSU career record for passes defensed (36)
CB: Marcus Trufant (Tacoma)
ESPN All-America, AP second-team All-America and all-Pac-10 selection in 2002. First-round draft pick of Seattle Seahawks. Ranks in WSU career top 10 for interceptions and yards. Honorable mention: Billy Newman, Eric Frampton, Tyron Brackenridge, Hamza Abdullah, Husain Abdullah, Virgil Williams, Karl Paymah
CAPT: Eric Frampton (San Jose)
Tooth-rattling hitter with a great motor, but even better known for his integrity and character. First-team All-Pac-10 pick in 2006. Tallied 187 tackles over his junior and seasons. Also a standout on special teams. Honorable mention: Al Genatone, Billy Newman
ALL-DECADE SPECIAL TEAMS
K: Drew Dunning (Issaquah)
The leading scorer in WSU history, he kicked more fields than Jason Hanson and had a better accuracy percentage. Named first-team All-America in 2003.
Honorable mention: Adam "Mr. Touchback" Holiday
P: Kyle Basler (Elma)
The MVP of the 2003 Holiday Bowl averaged 42.3 yards per boot. A four-year starter who holds school records for most punts and yards.
Honorable mention: Reid Forrest
RS: Sammy Moore (Mesa, Ariz.)
Racked up 1,416 yards on kickoff and punt returns, and returned two kicks for TDs. Also had some memorable catches at WR, including the 53-yard bomb at the end of regulation against USC in 2002 to set up the game tying field goal and force overtime.
Honorable mention: Michael Bumpus
LS: Zach Enyeart (Sammamish)
A walk-on whose speed and accuracy with snaps could draw NFL attention.
Honorable mention: Troy Bienemann
Lineman of the Decade: Rien Long
Special Teamer of the Decade: Kyle Basler
Walk-ons of the Decade: Scott Lunde, Mawuli Davis
True Gritters of the Decade: Matt Kegel and Alex Brink
Most Spirited of the Decade: Billy Newman, Mkristo Bruce
Most Unsung of the Decade: Don Jackson
NFL Player of the Decade: Jason Hanson
Name of the Decade: Kyle Stiffarm
Team of the Decade: The 10-3 Cougs of 2003
COLEMAN, KEGEL GET 10th WIN IN '03.
Sure, it's tough to pass on the Rose Bowl-bound club of 2002. But when you consider the backdrop for 2003, it's a no-brainer. They lost their coach and four -- yes, four -- first-team All-America from the prior season. They dropped a true heartbreaker at Notre Dame in Week 2 and were then dismissed heading to No. 17 Colorado, whom the Cougs wound up crushing. They went down to No. 10 Oregon, fresh off their Sports Illustrated stunner at Michigan, and proceeded to smash the Ducks 55-16 in Eugene. And on it went. At season's end, the '03 Cougs capped things off with one of the great wins in school history, the upset of No. 5 Texas in the Holiday Bowl. In so doing, they became the first Pac-10 team with three straight 10-win seasons -- a feat that had not been accomplished by a Pac-10 team since the 1930s. Hats off to Bill Doba and the boys for a season that will never be forgotten.
Runner up: 2002 Pac-10 Champions
Game of the Decade:
WSU 30, USC 27 - 2002
Effectively for the Pac-10 title, it’s Gesser vs. Palmer in sold out Martin Stadium. Not decided until overtime when Rien Long and the defense jumps on Palmer and Drew Dunning splits the uprights.
Runner up: WSU 28, Texas 20 in the 2003 Holiday Bowl
Coach of the Decade: Mike Price
ERIK COLEMAN WITH A PICK FOR SIX, 2003.
He was here for three of the 10 seasons in the decade, including back-to-back 10-win campaigns and national top 10 rankings in both those years. His last Cougar team won the Pac-10 title and advanced to the Rose Bowl. His inability to win the Apple Cup this decade and the way he departed Wazzu, however, had our panel at odds on this choice.
Offensive Player of the Decade: Jason Gesser (see above). Runner-up: Jerome Harrison.
Defensive Player of the Decade:
Erik Coleman was a standout on three 10-win teams. That's three 10-win teams. Rien Long can't say that. Neither can Lamont Thompson, Marcus Trufant or Will Derting. Coleman was a big-time playmaker, at both corner and safety, be it intercepting passes, deflecting them, forcing fumbles, recovering them, returning kicks, or cracking heads. He truly was all over the field, and has parlayed that talent into a long NFL career. Runner-up: D.D. Acholonu.
The Cougfan.com All-Decade team was compiled through a poll of seven panelists: Jim Walden, Steve Witter, Paul Sorensen, Bud Nameck, John Witter, Barry Bolton and Greg Witter.
RIEN LONG (88) AND ISAAC BROWN CELEBRATE NAILBITING OT VICTORY OVER USC IN 2002.