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Gunnar Eklund talks about leadership and his decision to walk on at WSU

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Gunnar Eklund is the most experienced and perhaps the best player WSU will have on its offensive line in 2014. We had a minute to chat with Eklund to ask him about his leadership role and his decision to walk on at WSU.

Gunnar Eklund
Gunnar Eklund
WSU Athletic Communications

From Lewiston -- Gunnar Eklund was not offered a scholarship to play at a major conference school, but that's what he wanted to do so he decided to walk on at WSU. His belief in himself and his work ethic have propelled him to be a leader on this team and the team's most experienced offensive lineman. We had a moment to chat with Gunnar after a practice in Lewiston and he had some great stuff to say.

CougCenter: Gunnar, you're the senior member on the offensive line this year. You have seen the most snaps. Tell me what kind of role that puts you in working with your teammates.

Eklund: This is my fourth fall camp running up right now. I'm still getting better every day, learning every day. But I have to take my knowledge and try to bring it to the younger guys out here in Lewiston. That's why we're down here so everyone comes together as a team. Right now I'm trying to be a leader for these young guys because I've done it before.

CougCenterDo you have a mentorship role working with any particular players?

Eklund: Right now it's just the O-line. I'm trying to be the leader of the O-line and just the young guys and try to help them out. Everyone tries to help each other out. You learn something new every day whether you're a freshman or a senior. Right now I'm just trying to be the leader of the O-line, get everyone on board, and accomplish our goals.

CougCenter: The D-line looks pretty stout. How is that helping you guys (the offensive line) out?

Eklund: They're playing they're tails off so it's good for us definitely. You know they're bringing it everyday. They're amped up everyday. That's only going to make us better. We need to match their intensity every day, which is something we're working. They're bringing it and they're doing good. That's only going to make us better.

CougCenter: Like you said, this is your fourth year. Talk about the progression here. What's different?

The intensity of practices, the camaraderie of the team, and just the leadership has grown each year since I've been here. Right now we have a lot of great leaders on the team and we need to keep doing it and keep pushing. Everybody is coming together down here. So far it's a good camp and we need to just keep getting better everyday. It's definitely progressed better and better each year, but we have goals, so it's got to get better and better.

CougCenter: You talk about improvement. What is Coach McGuire stressing with the offensive line right now?

Eklund: Consistency. Consistency and play hard. We have to play hard every play because, like you said, the defense is bringing it this camp, especially the D-line because they're older and stuff. But just consistency and work hard and play hard on every play because right now we've had a couple of inconsistent practices. We're up and down one period. Do good one period. Do good half a team (11-on-11 team session). Do bad half a team. Just trying to be consistent. Work hard. Play hard, because when you play hard you'll make a few mistakes but you can live up to it if you play hard.

CougCenter: Gunnar, you came here as a walk-on and then you're starting as a redshirt freshman. Did you ever expect anything like that?

Eklund: I had small school offers out of high school, like Central Washington and DII schools. I sat down with my parents and my dad said 'you think you can do it?' and I said, 'I know I can," so I wanted to go play DI football and WSU gave me a shot. I ran with it. Everyday it was my goal to get that scholarship to start. To do the best I can and still get better and better. I kind of play with a chip on shoulder I always have. I always try to do that because it helps motivate me.