It's been a difficult week to cover college football on a national level. Difficult enough that I began to question why I even bothered with this sport, these games. Seeing and hearing enough bad things about the game I love has that effect.
Saturday served as a reminder of why I love this game. Sure, Washington State's win over Arizona State was great by itself. It brought forth a torrent of emotions, a release by the fans in attendance and those watching on television across the country. It was, simply, one hell of a game.
But that's not why Saturday was a reminder of all the good in the sport, and why many of us love it so much. The games are always going to be special in one way or another -- be it because of the environment, individual performances or the end result.
Saturday was special because of a man who never took the field.
Steve Gleason left a lasting impression on the players, coaches and anyone that came into contact with him throughout the weekend. He spoke to the team before the game, raised the flag and was honored by those in attendance. The weekend was as much about Gleason and his battle as it was about Saturday night's game.
Head coach Paul Wulff walked into the interview room following the win with the game ball. "That ball for Halliday?" he was asked.
"No," he replied. "Steve Gleason's." The game ball didn't go to Connor Halliday, who had the game of his life, or Marquess Wilson, who was spectacular as always. It went to Steve Gleason, the man who's been an inspiration to many as he battles ALS.
The players and coaches all spoke highly of Gleason, praising his courage and calling him an inspirational man. Wulff began to get choked up as he tapped the ball on the podium while talking about Gleason and what his words meant to the team. Connor Halliday talked about running into Gleason in the locker room late Friday night as he and a few of the quarterbacks wandered through the locker room.
There wasn't a dry eye in the room as Gleason spoke to the players, Wulff said, and Saturday's win was as much for the Cougar great as it was for the players, coaches and program. I'm not sure I've ever been prouder to be associated with this university as I was tonight, and it had nothing to do with the play on the field.