There he was, hoping to fulfill a lifelong dream.
Back in the early 1980’s, Portland State coach Bruce Barnum was a talented linebacker prospect from Vancouver, WA. His dream? Play for the Washington Huskies.
He visited the campus in Seattle and sat with legendary coach Don James in his office discussing a possible offer.
But the offer never came. Barnum was crushed.
“If you live in the state of Washington, you want to be a Husky,” Barnum told Viking Tales. “I wanted to be one in high school. Don James recruited me up to about the second to last week and he told me no. They had me up for a visit, then dropped me. I’ll never forget that. That was my dream, to be a Husky.”
Undaunted, Barnum signed with Eastern Washington and graduated in 1987 from the Cheney-based school with a degree in education and history. He soon began his football coaching career at Columbia River High School.
In 1991, the year UW won a share of the national title, Barnum applied for a graduate assistant job with Washington. He interviewed with James and was one of two finalists for the coveted position.
He didn’t get it, but soon accepted a job on the Cornell staff as assistant offensive line coach and freshmen team offensive coordinator.
Saturday, Barnum returns to rebuilt Husky Stadium as Portland State squares off with No. 8 Washington (5 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network) looking to spring the biggest upset in college football history this side of Appalachian State-Michigan in 2007.
“They have a new stadium and in the Pacific Northwest, it’s Mecca,” Barnum said. “It’s something to see. They have one of their best teams I’ve seen in a long time. They are a very fast football team. Chris Peterson has done what they wanted him to do, bring Washington football back to national prominence. We’ll go up there and make a run at them. It should be fun from that aspect.”
Portland State has 19 players on its current roster from the state of Washington, making Saturday’s game particularly special for those guys since playing in Husky Stadium is a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“They’re very excited about it. They know a lot of guys on the Washington team,” Barnum said. “It’s going to be closer to their homes and we recruit the state of Washington. After Coach Peterson says we want this guy, we go in and fight for the rest.”
SANTIAGO’S BAD LUCK CONTINUES: Vikings safety Walter Santiago has experienced too much bad luck in his Portland State career, but the cruelest blow might have come in Saturday’s loss at San Jose State. Given a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after already missing two full seasons (2012, 2014) with ailments, Santiago suffered a season-ending injury in just the second game of the 2016 campaign, ending his college football career.
“I lost my captain and my safety,” Barnum said. “He has battled more injuries than Pinocchio. It’s too bad. I love the kid. He is important to us. That’s not good for the Vikings. He has worked very hard and battled through a lot. He is exactly what you what in a student-athlete.”
Junior nickel Beau Duronslet, a local product from Central Catholic High School in Portland, is the likely replacement for Santiago.
“He has played safety before, but we moved him (to nickel linebacker), but now we’re going to move him back to safety for this game,” Barnum said.
— CSN Northwest (@CSNNW) September 14, 2016
— Maximo Espitia, a Salem, Ore. native and former Cal player, has emerged as Portland State’s top tight end threat. But Barnum said Wednesday he could become a two-way player for the Vikings as they continue rebuilding the defense after losing several standouts from last season. “He’s an impact player on offense and I might make him an impact player on defense,” Barnum said. “There is a possibility we play him two ways. I’ve only don that once before. But there is a chance we do that with (Espitia) as well just because of his savvy and athleticism. Right now, he’s playing special teams. So, I said we might as well and him to our defense. He’s a quality person. He’s probably the funniest player we have on our team, personality-wise.’
BIG SKY SCHEDULE (Sept. 17)
UC Davis at Wyoming, 1 p.m.
Northern Colorado at Colorado State, 1 p.m.
Western Oregon at Montana State, 1 p.m.
Idaho State at Oregon State, 2 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
South Dakota at North Dakota, 2 p.m.
New Mexico Highlands at Northern Arizona, 4 p.m.
Cal Poly at South Dakota State, 4 p.m.
Northern Iowa at Eastern Washington, 4 p.m.
Portland State at Washington, 5 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
Sacramento State at Weber State, 5 p.m.
(All Times Pacific)
— Portland State FB (@viks_football) September 12, 2016