Sept. 22, 1999
When it comes to football, Leaford Hackett is all business.
Well, most of the time.
"He'll just do stupid things," said fellow wide receiver Farwan Zubedi. "He'll be messing around with you. When we are in our position meetings, we're trying to be all serious, and he'll be doing something behind (wide receiver coach Mike Levenseller) Levy's back. He's a crazy guy. Go a day in the life of Leaford Hackett and you would see some crazy stuff."
Being a joker is a common thought amongst the players when it refers to Hackett. However, Hackett feels he is more serious than people give him credit for.
"People always think I joke around, which I do, but there is a real serious drive in me," he said. "I have certain interests that people don't really know about. They would never really know that I would want to be an FBI agent. I have a lot of determination.
"I like law enforcement, but I don't particularly like street cop activity," Hackett said. "I want to be more behind the scenes, more undercover. I like working with kids too, so maybe I could be a probation officer."
The only way to achieve such lofty goals as becoming an FBI agent is through hard work, and the 5-foot-9, 174-pound senior has already shown that hard work can pay off.
Coming out of high school, Hackett stayed in California attending Los Angeles Valley College. It was his sophomore season that caught the attention of recruiters and coaches across the country.
Washington State coach Mike Price had heard about Hackett's pass-catching abilities, but traveled to L.A. Valley College for another reason.
"I was actually going to L.A. Valley to look at a defensive back," Price recalls. "I saw him out on the football field just running and running routes and then he ran in the weight room. I said 'Who is that guy? I should be recruiting him!' I had heard about him because he caught a lot of passes. Anybody who works like that we want to be a Cougar and that is why we offered him a scholarship."
So Price continued to keep an eye on Hackett and when he went back down for another visit, a different school was there to talk to him. "We go in to see him and Hawaii is there," Price said. "They're outside waiting in the car and we come in and he says 'Coach, I forgot, Hawaii is coming at the same time. Are you going to offer me a scholarship?' I said yes and he said 'O.K. then tell Hawaii that I'm not going."
Hackett had a different take on the situation.
I didn't want to go to Hawaii anyway," he said.
Although Hawaii wasn't on the top of Hackett's list, Washington State was at, or near the top.
"I had some cool schools recruiting me, but I was going to go to Marshall because Marshall throws the ball," Hackett said. "I have never been the guy to worry about all the hype. I was just worried about playing college football because there is no guarantee that anybody is going to the NFL. Marshall threw the ball and had a real good team so I was going to go there if I didn't come here."
When Hackett arrived at WSU, it took him awhile to adjust to life on the Palouse.
"It was hard as far as the weather," he said. "I wasn't used to playing in this weather at all. That cramped my game a little bit. I didn't want to mess up so I was conservative."
And it showed as Hackett dropped a couple of balls early in the 1998 season that normally wouldn't elude his hands.
"I was playing too tight so that probably had an effect on me catching the ball," Hackett said. "I can honestly say that last year was the worst year I've ever had catching the ball and I really didn't drop that many balls.
"This year I feel so comfortable that I can just go out and play now. I know the routes and what I can do on certain routes. I don't have to worry about much. Last year I was worried about making too many mistakes."
Hackett spent his summer in Pullman lifting weights to make sure that those mistakes wouldn't happen again.
"(During the summer) I lifted four days a week at least," Hackett said. "I probably lifted about five days a week. Right now, I'm going in there two days a week," he said. "Next week, I'm going to start going in three, four days a week once I get my schedule set."
Hackett came to WSU with a bench press of 270 pounds and is now lifting 310 pounds.
"Leaford did a great job this summer," said strength coach Roger Scharnhorst. "I don't think he missed a lift or run all summer. He's a guy that works his butt off in practice and brings that into the weight room as well. He works hard. He comes in and does extra stuff. He was in here just about every day doing something."
Hard work is something that comes natural to Hackett
"That's a way of making me better," he said. "It makes me stronger as a player. On the field I work on fundamentals to make me better and have better technique, but going in the weight room enables me to do things on the field that I wouldn't be able to do without the weights."
Price also acknowledged Hackett's hard work off the field at a team meeting during the week of the Idaho game.
"He's a real hard working kid," Price said. "He's probably the hardest working player on the team. It was interesting the other night when I introduced him to the team the week of the Idaho game. I said he was the hardest worker on the team. He said, 'It's not work for me. That's how I play. I just love to practice."
So what does Hackett do to unwind?
He plays NCAA football '99 on the Sony Playstation.
"I usually play with my friends' schools, but I also play with Washington State," Hackett said.
When playing with the Cougs, Hackett doesn't always pass the ball to himself. He likes to pass to Nian Taylor.
"He's the fastest player on the game," he said. "I pass to myself sometimes, but I would rather have those passes in the game instead of on the video game."
Whether it be video games or real games, Hackett is prepared to take on any challenge.