Sept. 12, 2006
At a time when Washington State football was just beginning to debut, a young product from Olympia, Wash., stepped in to take control. In his three years as quarterback, Mel Melin revolutionized the Cougar offense, leaving his mark on WSU football for years to come.
Melin arrived in Pullman in 1958 after a stellar prep campaign at Olympia High School. While at Olympia, Melin was considered to be one of the finest quarterback prospects to come out of the state of Washington. An All-State selection in his senior year, Melin excelled as a passer as well as a runner.
When it came time to choose a college, Melin knew that football would play a big part in his decision. In lieu of playing for conference opponent Stanford, Melin felt Washington State was a much better fit.
"I came to Washington State because I liked their football," Melin said. "I played a passing offense in high school and that's what they were doing here and I knew I'd fit right in."
Melin spent the 1958 season as a member of the freshman football team and was recruited for the varsity squad the next season. As a sophomore in 1959, Melin recalls playing frequently and even starting a few games. But it was the 1960 season that set Melin apart as a stand-out quarterback.
In 1960, Melin set five single-season offensive records as he led the Cougars to a 4-5-1 overall record. He completed 119 passes out of 220 attempts, earning the top spot in the WSU record books in both categories. Melin also held records for yards gained (1,638) as well as rushing and passing plays (313) and rushing and passing yards (1,715) at the end of the 1960 season. Besides ranking in at top spots in the WSU record books, Melin also owned national rankings in several categories.
With 1,715 yards, Melin came in second nationally in his junior year in total offense and third in passing with 119 completions out of 220 attempts for 1,638 yards and 11 touchdowns. But even in the midst of all of the record-setting performances, one game in particular sticks out in Melin's mind - an 8-7 loss against in-state rival Washington.
"I can never forget our 8-7 game against the Huskies. I ran and passed an awful lot and I also kicked the extra points and field goals. It was down to one minute left and I went for the field goal and it was blocked," recalled Melin. "To this day, I know it would have gone through and been good."
As a senior, Melin and the Cougars struggled early on. The team faced a more challenging schedule, taking on three top-ranked teams in the first three games of the season. And with Melin suffering from injury early on in the season, the Cougars were unable to rebound, finishing the 1961 season with a 3-7 record.
"We started against some really strong teams," said Melin. "Missouri, Utah State and Texas had been in bowl games the year before, and in those days, not many teams went to bowl games. They were really strong and it was just an off season for us. We had some good games but it just wasn't enough."
Despite the Cougars' downfalls, Melin shone as quarterback. Upon completion of his senior year, Melin had entered WSU's career record books in four categories and his single-season records still stood strong. His 452 attempts earned him the number one spot as did the 634 rushing and passing plays and the 3,135 yards gained from those plays. In a twist, Melin served as kicker upon occasion and set the career record for most field goals kicked with four.
Melin's accomplishments did not go unnoticed. For his efforts, he was invited to participate in several post-season games including the East-West Shrine Game, the Senior Bowl held in Mobile, Ala., and the Coaches' All-American Game in Buffalo, N.Y.
He graduated in 1961 with a degree in civil engineering but continued his football career with a stint in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Melin played quarterback for the British Columbia Lions for four years alongside fellow Cougar teammates Mark Martin and Chuck Barnes.
"There were a lot of former Cougars that played in the CFL. You had me and Mark Martin and Chuck Barnes with BC and then Hugh Campbell, he was with Saskatchewan. So there were quite a few alums in the league," said Melin.
Melin led his 1964 Lions to their second consecutive Grey Cup appearance and their first title in the organization's history. BC defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats by a score of 34-24 to take home the trophy.
Thirty years later, Melin has nothing but fond memories of his days as a Cougar.
"It was a wonderful experience," said Melin. "It was a great time to be in Pullman and I made a lot of lifelong friends."
And for the 2006 Cougars, Melin has a few very simple words.
"I wish them all the best. I have nothing but respect for Bill Doba and his staff. I just wish them a lot of good luck."