By Jason Krump
The journey to the New Mexico Bowl for Elliott Bosch has not been easy.
But it's been special.
"Any walk-on would tell you it’s a really hard job," he explains. "You almost have to work harder than a scholarship player because you have to prove yourself every day and step above them.
"Along the way, you’re not getting dinner paid for, you’re paying your own rent, and buying your own books, so there’s a lot of stress outside the football field money-wise,” he adds. “You got to study and keep your grades up, too, so it’s a big struggle."
So when he earned a scholarship, it was a relief.
“When I finally did get a scholarship it was a big weight lifted off my shoulders,” he says. “You really do appreciate it a lot more because you know what it’s like not to have one. Everyone appreciates their scholarship and it’s great, but I think you don’t truly appreciate it unless you know what it’s like not to have one and pay your own way.”
Bosch, who grew up in Spokane and attended Ferris High School, played various positions on the offensive line, as well as fullback, before earning his way to the starting center position and team captain as a junior during the 2012 season. He concluded that season as the recipient of the program’s Mike Utley Award for Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Playing in Coach Mike Leach’s offense, Bosch’s responsibilities at the center position are vast, and as he entered his senior season and the second year of playing in that offense, Bosch felt that he and his teammates adjusted to the intricacies of it.
"This summer we got a lot of work in," he says. "It took me a little while, but once I got comfortable at center and comfortable in the offense, it’s second nature.”
Proof of how comfortable was evident in 2013. Bosch anchored an offensive line that blocked for the fifth-best passing attack in the country, setting Pac-12 and WSU single season records for passing attempts and completions while throwing for the most yards in school history.
The six wins marked a three-win improvement from last season and Saturday's New Mexico appearance will be the program's first in a bowl game since the 2003 Holiday Bowl, something Bosch says is a "long-time coming."
"When I first came here I knew where the program was at and I was looking forward to be a part of turning it around," he says. "It takes a long time, and that's what you don't know as a naive kid coming in. I'm glad it's turning around and heading in the right direction and to be a part of it, I'm really proud."
A starter at center for all 12 games each of the past two seasons, Bosch was named Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection for the second straight year earlier this month. Furthermore, he was named a Burlsworth Trophy nominee, given to the most outstanding collegiate football player who began his career as a walk-on.
Most recently, Bosch earned the team's offensive most valuable player at the program's annual banquet.
Off the field, Bosch is studying business communication and also has an interest in architecture, a discipline that is at the forefront of Cougar Football with the current football operations building construction, a project that Bosch has paid close attention to.
"It's been fun to watch," he says.
Bosch also has fun when he has the opportunity to express his gratitude to those who make his scholarship possible, such as when he attends the annual Cougar Athletic Fund endowment luncheon, which he attended in September.
“It’s pretty fun to go to the endowment lunch and meet the people who put up the money to let us play football,” he says. “They’re the nicest people who make a big sacrifice for us.”
Bosch has made many sacrifices as a walk-on and scholarship player during his career at WSU.
And he knows those sacrifices have rewarded him with Saturday's bowl game and the special experience of being a Coug.
“There is so much Cougar Pride,” he says. “Everywhere you go you get a ‘Go Cougs.’ It’s fun to be a part of that tight-knit community. Once you go through it and graduate you are part of a special fraternity.”