Celebrating 100 of the top players in Eastern Football History as the school embarks upon its 100th season of football in the 2008 season. For more information, go to: http://goeags.prestosports.com/hallfame/ewas-100for100.html
&Indicates current member of Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame. *Member of the Dick Zornes All-Time Team (players from the years 1963-67, 1971, 1979-98)
No. - Name - Position - Hometown (Previous Schools) - Years Lettered - Honors/Notes/Stats
4 - Lamont Brightful - All-Purpose - Everett, Wash. (Mariner HS '97) - 1998-99-00-01 - FCS A-A in '99, `00 & '01; Broke three FCS return records; Six pro seasons.
19 - Troy Griggs - Kicker - University Place, Wash. (Curtis HS '98) - 1999-00-01 - Second team FCS All-America in 2001; 231 kick-scoring points (EWU record).
32 - Eric Kimble - All-Purpose - Tacoma, Wash. (Franklin Pierce HS '01) - 2002-03-04-05 - First team FCS A-A in `04 & `05; 253 rec., 4,140 yds, 48 TD (No. 2 in FCS).
5 - Bashir Levingston - All-Purpose - Seaside, Calif. (Seaside HS '95 & Utah St.) - 1998 - FCS Specialist of the Year & A-A in 1998; Entering eighth CFL/NFL season.
83 - *Craig Richardson - All-Purpose - Seattle, Wash. (O'Dea HS `83) - 1983-84-85-86 - Led FCS with 34.7 average in 1984; 27.2 average in career; Played in NFL.
41 - *Eric Stein - Punter/Kicker - Yakima, Wash. (West Valley HS `84) - 1984-85-86-87 - FCS A-A in 1987 with 43.1 avg.; 41.3 in career; 28 career FG, six of 51+
For kicker Troy Griggs and kickoff returner Lamont Brightful, the 2001 Eastern Washington University football season is certainly unforgettable. In about a six-hour span on Nov. 24, 2001, they made it remarkable.
That duo are two of the sensational, record-breaking group of six all-purpose players and specialists on Eastern's "100 for 100" All-Time Football Team. The squad consists of 100 of the top players in school history to help commemorate the upcoming 100th year of football at Eastern. The others on the all-purpose/specialists list are wide receiver/return sensations Eric Kimble, Bashir Levingston and Craig Richardson, as well as kicker/punter Eric Stein.
It's a small group, but it's a group of football players that hold an abundance of Eastern Washington University, Big Sky Conference and even a few NCAA records. They and the other players on the "100 for 100" squad will be honored on Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Day on Sept. 27, 2008, in conjunction with EWU's Big Sky Conference football game with Idaho State. Starting June 18, the public is invited to vote on the top player at each position, with results announced on Sept. 27.
The memory of Nov. 24, 2001, actually started earlier in the fall when the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 postponed Eastern's game at Idaho State to Thanksgiving weekend. The day after Thanksgiving, with nothing but pride to play for, the 6-4 Eagles flew to Salt Lake City and then took the bus to Pocatello, Idaho.
"Because it was a postponed game on Thanksgiving weekend, nobody on our team really wanted to be there," recalled Griggs. "Because of 9-11, we all wanted to be at home with our families. But at the same time, there was a game to play and we wanted to play well. The irony was that it would come down to the final play."
But before the game could get to that point, Griggs had to come to the stark realization that his kicking shoe had fallen out of his travel bag during Eastern's flight from Spokane.
"There was a little hole at the top of my bag and I saw one of my shirts hanging out," he recalled. "Sure enough, my shoe had fallen out, and it was my kicking shoe. I called the airline and they found it, but we didn't have time to go back to Salt Lake City to pick it up."
So, with just about three hours before kickoff, Griggs and his mother went shopping at a Pocatello sporting goods store. "We bought a $10 pair of soccer shoes because the ones I wanted weren't on sale," he laughed.
The game was certainly entertaining, and close, as the Eagles piled up yardage by the ton. All-America running back Jesse Chatman would finish with 212 yards rushing and Fred Salanoa had 360 passing as the Eagles finished with 618 yards of offense.
But despite all the yardage, the Eagles found themselves in behind 45-38 late in the game. Enter Brightful, who was in the hunt for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision record for average yards per kickoff return. With a FCS five kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career, Brightful was trying to break the record of 29.69 held by former Marshall standout and eventual New England Patriots wide receiver Troy Brown (1991-92).
And because it was a somewhat meaningless game, the record became important to the Eagles and special teams coach Keith Murphy, who is now with the St. Louis Rams in the National Football League.
"In our special teams meetings, coach Murphy made it known that it was an attainable record," explained Griggs. "The emphasis during the week wasn't necessarily to forget our assignments, but he made it known that Lamont deserved that record. Lamont had kept us in a lot of games in his career with his returns. We just needed to push a little harder for it."
And push harder they did, to the tune of a 53-yard return that gave Brightful the record by a miniscule margin. That return gave him 1,949 yards in 65 career returns for a 29.98 average. If the return had been 20 yards shorter, the record would have still belonged to Brown.
"I didn't know if it was the record-breaking return because we didn't know what he exactly needed," said Griggs. "But until he had that return we didn't think he would break it. Then, his return gave him a chance at the record and we had a chance to get a win and take care of everything."
Eastern would score on a quick 47-yard drive, then got the ball back when Brightful, playing as a defensive back like he would during his eventual professional career, recovered a fumble at the ISU 33-yard line with 1:51 to play.
Enter the $10 soccer shoes. Griggs' 41-yard field goal with eight seconds to play gave Eastern a 48-45 victory.
"It was definitely the best highlight of my career -- I still tell the story," he said. "Once again, my mom bails me out. It was quite the experience. And we went out with a winning season and that's a nice thing to remember too."
And lest he forgets, he still has the $10 shoes
"I actually broke those out the other day," he explained. "I was going to play a pick-up game of soccer with some old buddies, but I left my normal cleats in a friend's car. I remembered that I had that pair in a box in my closet."
He didn't kick any game-winning soccer goals with the shoes, but it did give him another opportunity to re-live one of his great memories -- and a memory that would lead to bigger and better things for the Eastern football program. The Eagles have advanced to the FCS Playoffs in three of the last four years, and Griggs likes to think some of his teams and their accomplishments helped set the bar high that day in Pocatello.
"We didn't want to get away from winning, but we had an opportunity to make a name for Lamont and set a precedent for other guys who would come to Eastern. What we accomplished we wanted to watch grow in the future."
"Besides, what player doesn't bring up records?," he asked. "But even this time the coaches talked about it. They wanted us to set a new standard for somebody else to come along and break. Like coach Murphy said, you want somebody to come along and break your records because it's showing good movement in the direction the program wants to go."
Griggs finished his career with 231 points to set the school's kick-scoring record as he made 120-of-126 conversion attempts to set records for makes and attempts. He attempted a school-record 59 field goals, making 37, including 14-of-20 as a senior in 2001 when he earned second team All-America accolades.
Although he kicked five field goals versus Weber State early in the 2001 season to set a school record with 20 kick-scoring points, his game-winning kick was a source of pride that he carries today as a fan of his alma mater. He returned to his hometown of Tacoma, Wash., where he works as a land surveyor.
"It's always fun to have that tie to the program," he said. "When you give all you have for four years, it becomes a special place. I'm always looking for Eastern sports news before anything else, and I liked watching (former Eastern basketball star) Rodney Stuckey in the NBA Playoffs this year. Having a player like that at Eastern, let alone the NBA, was unheard of when I was in high school. Eastern is making lot of steps in the right direction."
Griggs graduated in 1998 from Curtis High School in Tacoma, and remembers hanging out in elementary school with Joe Baldwin, the younger brother of current Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. Beau Baldwin, as well as current Eastern assistant coach Torey Hunter, helped lead Curtis to a state football championship in 1989.
"We would always go to Curtis games together because his brother was the quarterback and they were contending for state championships," said Griggs. "There are a lot of other players and coaches I've been associated with through the years in the Tacoma area that also have connections to Eastern. It's a great family to be a part of."
Members of All-Purpose/Specialists Group have eye-popping numbers, honors and records . . .
The eye-popping numbers, honors and records by Brightful and the other all-purpose players and specialists on the "100 for 100" team are noteworthy by themselves. Brightful earned All-America honors as a return specialist as a sophomore, junior and senior. He also caught 122 passes for 2,061 yards and 20 touchdowns, and finished with 4,375 all-purpose yards.
Brightful was drafted in the sixth round by Baltimore in the NFL Draft in 2002. He played in 28 games in his first three seasons in the league with the Ravens and Miami Dolphins, then he moved on to the CFL where he concluded his career. His shining moment in the NFL came as a rookie in 2002 when he had a team-record 95-yard punt return in a 38-27 win against Cincinnati to earn AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. He finished with 201 total return yards against the Bengals, including a season-best 54-yard kickoff return.
He was followed by perhaps the greatest all-purpose player of them all, Eric Kimble, who played for Eastern from 2002-05 and played as both a wide receiver and running back to go along with punt and kickoff return duties. His school-record total of 5,934 all-purpose yards in his 46-game career included 4,140 receiving, 339 rushing, 990 in punt returns and 465 in kickoff returns. He scored a school-record 54 total touchdowns -- 46 receiving, five rushing and three on punt returns.
Kimble is now with British Columbia in the Canadian Football League after sitting out for two years while rehabilitating an Achilles tendon injury. Kimble broke nine EWU career records and four single season marks, including the season receptions record with 87.
Kimble's 46 career touchdown receptions ranked second in FCS history behind the 50 of legendary Jerry Rice from Mississippi Valley (1981-84). Kimble broke the Big Sky Conference career reception yards record, with a total of 4,140 yards that ranks fourth in FCS history. His 253 catches ranked eighth all-time in FCS (second in Big Sky history).
Richardson was the original record wrecker of the group, averaging 34.7 yards per kickoff return in 1984 to set a single-season NCAA Football Championship Subdivision record. Against both Idaho and Howard Payne, he returned kickoffs 100 yards for scores. He still owns Eastern's career records with 80 kickoff returns for 2,176 yards, and, coupled with his 145 catches for 2,160 yards as a receiver, he held the school's all-purpose yards record for 15 years with a total of 4,382 yards from 1983-86.
In that same time frame from 1984-87, Stein was breaking records left and right as a kicker and punter, and at one time he held school records for both career scoring (186 points) and career punting average (41.3). Of his 24 career field goals -- a school record at the time -- he had six of at least 50 yards, including a 57-yarder versus Montana State in 1987 that still stands as the school record. He earned a trio of first team All-America honors in 1987 as a punter when he finished with a 43.1 average that stood as a record for 16 years.
About 10 years later came Levingston, who transferred to Eastern from Utah State for his senior season in 1998. Levingston played just one season at Eastern, but set or tied 34 school, Big Sky and FCS records. He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game against Sacramento State on Oct. 31, 1998, to help break most of the records and he also scored on two punt returns. Including receiving and rushing, he averaged 25.0 yards every time he touched the ball, and scored every 5.3 times he touched the ball (12 total touchdowns).
Levingston was a first team All-America return specialist and Football Gazette's Specialist of the Year before embarking on a professional career. He has played for five different professional teams, including five years with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. Entering the 2008 season, he has had 15 total touchdowns on returns in the CFL and currently plays for the Montreal Alouettes.