April 17, 2000
By Steve Jacobson, WSU Sports Information
Life as a college punter is even less glamorous than what people think.
Nobody really cares when you do your job correctly, but when you make a mistake, everyone in the stadium calls for your head.
Coach Mike Price knew he needed to find a punter that was ready to step right up and be ready to fill the void left by Kareem Anderson, who averaged 40.9 yards per punt over his two years at WSU.
That guy was Alan Cox, who attended Snow College and graduated in December of 1999. He averaged 43.4 yards as a freshman and 43.7 yards as a senior, twice being selected to the All-Western State Football League first team as well as earning junior college All-America honors his sophomore year.
"It was crucial (to get a proven punter,)" Price said. "We have a walk-on punter (Jesse Nicassio), but he's real young. So we needed a real proven guy and Alan Cox is a proven player. He's one, if not the best punter in JC football and we feel very, very fortunate to get him. I think it was a good match because he needed a place where he could know he would play right away."
Arriving at WSU has taken Cox down a long, winding road.
Cox grew up in Manti, Utah where he was a stellar athlete earning 13 varsity letters at Manti High School. Cox was a four-time All-State selection in baseball as both a pitcher and a shortstop. He also earned honors as a quarterback as a junior (all-region) and senior (all-state) at Manti. He also averaged a double-double in basketball and was a member of a 1600M relay team that placed fourth at state.
"That is all my family does, we just play sports," Cox said. "I have an older brother and a younger brother and it's really competitive and that is all we did was play sports for fun. We just loved doing it. It was a big part of our lives."
When he graduated high school in 1995, Cox was stuck at a crossroads. He was faced with the decision to either go to a major college and play football, as a punter, or go on a two-year Latter Day Saints (LDS) mission for his Mormon religion.
"I had a lot of different offers, but I went on an LDS mission for two years (in New Jersey,)" Cox said. "Once I told the bigger colleges that I was going on an LDS mission for two years, they were saying, 'we'll see what you're like when you come back.' When I came back, I sent some tapes out to different places and I didn't feel right about the way things went.
One reason why the colleges became skeptical of Cox is because he was on his mission and only had one "preparation day" each week to do whatever he wanted. The other six days were spent teaching people about the gospel.
Once again, Cox was stuck at another crossroads. Would he go to a major college and try and prove himself even though he hadn't punted in two years?
"About seven miles from my house is Snow College and I know in the 1990s it has been in the top 10 junior colleges in the nation (in football) so I decided to go there," Cox said. "They had great coaches and it has been the best thing for me so far."
But that too would change.
During the summer before his sophomore year, Cox and longtime friend Jennie Dyreng, who was also attending Snow College at the time, began dating.
The two were inseparable and were married December 18, 1999.
"Everything felt right and it just worked. We went ahead and got married." Cox said. "It's going really well, I enjoy it. I have a great wife and she's taking pretty good care of me."
Just nine days before the biggest day of the Cox's lives, another major decision had to be made. Where would Alan play football? Where would the two move to begin their lives?
"I kind of wanted her to say something," Alan said. "She really didn't. She didn't really care where we went, but she wanted to stay closer to home. It was pretty much up to me."
Has the move been difficult for Cox to be married and one month later be living in a different town, with nearly all his new teammates single?
"No, not really," he said. "All the guys feel really good about it. Of course sometimes they wonder why I'm not always coming out with the guys on the weekends. I have other things I need to take care of. I have to be with my wife. Sometimes we do go out with some of the other guys on the team and hang out with them and their dates."
But not all has been fun and games for Cox in Pullman. Spring football practices began March 20, giving him a chance to show the Cougars they didn't make a mistake in luring him to WSU.
"He's everything we thought and even more," Price said. "He really has a tremendously strong leg and he's having a great spring. He's as good of a spring punter as we've ever had here. Sometimes we get guys come in here and it takes them a while to get used to it. In the first spring scrimmage he averaged 44 yards per punt."
Former WSU standout punter Jeff Banks has been coaching Cox and the kickers during the spring and has liked what he has seen.
"He's doing well," Banks said. "He's got all the tools and I think he's a real gifted athlete. He's got great athletic ability and he shows it. He's got a real strong leg. So far in camp, he has impressed me a lot, but we've got a lot to work on. He's a competitor, he likes to be challenged and out here on the practice field. He works his butt off and it's going to show. He's got as strong of a leg as any one that has come here in a while and we've had some pretty good ones, but it will be interesting to see."
So what does Banks have Cox working on during practice?
Cox spends most of his time practicing punt drops and steps. Catch, spin, drop, over and over again. Often times for 20 minutes straight. The monotony won't end, because perfection is what both Banks and Cox seek.
"I've got a lot of work to do," Cox said. "I'm not going to say anything different. I do have a lot of work and it's going to take a lot of time to get where I want to be. I feel like I can do a good job here, but I've got to put in a lot of time and a lot of hard work into it to get me there."
And he's got about five months to gear up for the 2000 season. Both Price and Banks are optimistic about the prospects of Cox and his leg.
"He'll do real well for us. He will probably be in the top three or four in the Pac-10 next year," Banks said.