SEATTLE — Alex Brink promises he is ending his Washington State career with no regrets.
The end results weren’t always what the fifth-year senior quarterback hoped for when he came to Washington State, but for Brink, the journey has made it all worth while.
The record books will remember Brink quite fondly, though some Cougar fans might not. Brink will go down as one of the most prolific passers in Washington State history, but he will also be remembered for what he didn’t accomplish.
In Brink’s four years at quarterback — he has been the starter for three and a half — the Cougars have never had a winning season, and have never been to a bowl game. Make no mistake about it, Brink wishes that was different, but he’s not going to spend his adult years regretting his days in Pullman.
“There’s not doubt you always want to be the guy that takes a team to a national championship, or has all the wins and whatnot, but I don’t have any what ifs,” he said. “It didn’t work out, and that’s OK. The time I spent here was awesome, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. I’ve loved it. Obviously it would have been great, but there’s no regret at all.”
Bowl games or not, Brink has left his mark at Washington State. Heading into his final game, Brink holds the school record for passing yards (10,514), touchdown passes (71), completions (821) and pass attempts (1,411).
Washington State coach Bill Doba certainly has no regrets that the Cougars took a chance on the quarterback from Eugene, Ore., who was not heavily recruited by the rest of the teams in the Pacific-10 Conference.
“I’m going to remember Alex as a first class kid, number one, and an excellent role model for the title ‘student athlete,’” Doba said of Brink, a 3.9 student. “I’m going to remember a kid that’s been underappreciated. The quarterback doesn’t play defense and catch the ball and block too. If the team wins, it’s the quarterback, and if they lose it’s all his fault also, and that’s kind of the nature of the position. He’s a solid, solid person, and he’s been a great quarterback for us. I just feel bad that we haven’t given him enough support to reach his goal to get to a bowl game.”
Doba has been impressed by Brink, and the admiration goes both ways. For starters, Brink is grateful that Doba and the Cougars gave him a shot to play Division I football, which was hardly a given for Brink in high school. Once in Pullman, Brink has learned a lot from Doba. When Brink was going through struggles on the field and hearing fans chant the name of his backup quarterback last season, he couldn’t feel sorry for himself. Not when his coach was dealing with real pain, coaching for the first time since losing his wife Judy to cancer that spring.
“He’s given me a lot of strength watching him go through what he had to go through with his wife,” Brink said. “And at the time I was going through some tough years, so it was good to look at him and see how strong he was through all of that.”
Doba has not only helped Brink stay strong, but also stay smiling. In a blowout loss to Oregon State last week, Brink had an uncharacteristic game for the Pac-10’s leading passer. While he did have more than 300 yards as usual — Brink averages 310.8 yards per game — he was intercepted six times.
On Wednesday, Doba was able to joke his quarterback about the loss, knowing Brink could take it.
“I’ll (tell) you the kind of kid he is,” Doba said. “I was kidding with him — and he can take a joke — and I said, ‘You really are selfish. You wanted every record and now you’re going for the interception record.’ And he laughed about it.”
And while a lack of wins might be a knock on Brink, he still has a chance to do something no quarterback before him has done when it comes to victories. A win over the Huskies Saturday would make Brink the first quarterback to lead the Cougars to three Apple Cup wins, something never accomplished by the likes of Jason Gesser, Ryan Leaf, Drew Bledsoe, Timm Rosenbach and Jack Thompson.
“That’s a pretty special deal considering all the guys that have come through here,” Brink said. “More than anything, it’s really important for our team. It would be great to send these seniors out with a win and a get a big win over Washington. It’s a game that means a lot to a lot of people.”
And it means a lot to Brink. Through four years of ups and downs, Brink has not experienced the wins he had hoped for, and a win against the Huskies would at least send him off on a high note. But win or lose, Brink has enjoyed his time at Washington State.
“It’s just been a great opportunity,” he said. “I never would have thought five years ago that it would have turned out like this, whether that’s good or bad. But I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s been a great time.”
Contact Herald Writer John Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on University of Washington sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com /huskiesblog