Nov. 27, 2001
By Mike Kreiger
Four months ago, Josh Moen was not a member of the Washington State football team. In fact, he was not a member of any team.
Moen, a senior from Curtis High in Tacoma, was working for his aunt in Nebraska to make a little extra cash and figure out what he was going to do regarding school. He had played for Washington State for three seasons, but the harsh reality was that he could no longer pay for college as a walk-on. While his teammates were getting all of their college costs paid for, Moen was paying for everything, he bought his own books and paid for his own tuition. With all the time he spent practicing as a member of the Cougar football team, Moen could not find enough time to get a part-time job and make some money.
"I was having some financial problems." Moen said honestly. "I went to Nebraska this summer to stay with some family and do some work. My aunt in Nebraska was talking with one of my aunts in Chicago and she said she wanted to help me out."
The aunt is Linda Mitchell. She decided that she would help out her nephew and allow him another chance at playing for Washington State.
"I was looking at going to some Division II schools, but when she offered to help me out, of course I accepted," Moen said.
So instead of applying to transfer to some smaller schools, Moen called up WSU Head Coach Mike Price and told him the situation. Moen said Price, a walk-on himself during his playing days, was totally understanding with the change in plans.
"Coach Price made it a lot easier than I expected," Moen said. "He's more accepting than most coaches and he made easy for me to come back to WSU."
Before Moen learned about his chance to come back to Pullman, he was crushed about leaving.
"I was heart-broken," Moen said. "I didn't know what to do. I kept thinking about how I wasn't going to see any of my teammates anymore. The thought of having to go to a new school and make a whole new set of friends while trying to fit into a new football program was horrifying. I came back here and talked with coach Price and it was a huge relief. He said he would take me back and let me come back to camp and two-a-days. It was overwhelming to say the least."
Price said it was a no-brainer to welcome Moen back to the program.
"I told him before he left that he always had a home here," Price said. "When he called me and said he was coming back, it didn't take me long to think about it. He's the kind of guy we want in a Cougar uniform."
So Moen went from Cougar to farmhand to Cougar again. Price is glad Moen came back.
"Josh is a perfect example of the Cougar spirit," Price said. "He has a great attitude, enthusiasm, and intensity. He is a fun person with a wild and crazy personality. You combine all of those things and you've got Josh Moen."
While Moen was delighted to come back and play in the Crimson and Gray, he felt he had something to prove. It just so happened to turn out he would get his chance in what was the biggest game in his career at Washington State.
Turn back the clock to Oct. 13, 2001. The 5-0 Cougars traveled to No. 23 Stanford to face the 3-0 Cardinal. Something had to give. With the scored tied at 21 in the second quarter, Stanford was punting. As a member of the Cougars' special teams unit, Moen finally had his chance.
"We were out there and the call was on for a block," Moen said. "Billy Newman was lined up over the center saying, 'We've got our swagger back.' Jeremy Thielbahr and I were telling the linemen in front of us that we were coming for it. We just believed that we were going to make a big play and knew we were going to get it. Everybody came through the line really hard and I happened to be the one who came free and got a hand on the ball."
Not only did Moen get a hand on the ball, but he managed to block it toward the Stanford end zone. Jeremy Bohannon picked up the ball and took it in for the score, giving the Cougars a 28-21 lead. The Cougars went on to beat the Cardinal 45-39 in large part to Moen's spectacular play.
Not only did Moen turn heads on the WSU coaching staff but with the Pacific-10 as well.
"We were up here in Pullman a few days after the game," Moen said with a grin. "Erik Coleman and Fred Shavies came up to me and congratulated me for being named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week. I thought they were joking, but then everybody started saying it. I just thought they were making fun of me and it was all a big joke.
"After practice I went up to the computer lab and I saw that on the Pac-10 website that I was actually named the Player of the Week," Moen continued. "It was really cool. That doesn't happen too often, especially somebody at my position."
Moen also recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown last season against Stanford, but this year's play stands out to him because it contributed to a win for a team headed to a bowl game.
"It was the highlight of my career," Moen said. "All I want to do is help us win games. It's indescribable. I'm grateful for being back here and playing on a winning team. It's a great feeling not only to be back with my friends, but it's amazing being on a team that is contending for the Pac-10 Championship."
Moen has gone from not being on a football team to winning a conference award. The only thing left is to step on the field for the Cougars in a bowl game.
"That will be the ultimate," Moen said of playing in a bowl game. "With everything that has happened, I've just learned that you can't take anything for granted."