Maxx Forde was the son of a Cougar, and not just any one. Back in 1986, Brian Forde established a season record for tackles that still stands at Washington State.
As a kid, then, Maxx was in love with crimson, following WSU closely through the latter Mike Price and Bill Doba years. In eighth grade, he even built his own little Cougars website.
“I don’t think it got any hits,” Maxx says today with a laugh.
A few years later, here came the Cougars with the first scholarship offer for the lineman from Woodinville High.
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But upsets happen not only on the field, but off it. Maxx Forde chose to attend Idaho, and he’ll be starting at defensive end for the Vandals when they visit WSU Saturday night — with parental support.
“There’s no mixed emotions as far as who I’m going to be rooting for,” said Brian Forde. “I’m going to be rooting for my son.
“I certainly would have preferred he was in crimson and gray, watching him play defensive line for them, but ultimately that wasn’t in the cards. He had other options, and he went with another option.”
The way this one went caused a signing-day spat between the elder Forde and WSU coach Paul Wulff. That was 3½ years ago, and a lot has changed. Wulff is gone, replaced by Mike Leach, and the Idaho coach who successfully recruited Forde, Robb Akey, has also been fired.
“None of us have the benefit of hindsight,” said Brian Forde.
His son was recruited by Army, Air Force, Idaho and WSU. He was considered the Cougars’ to lose, but never quite felt comfortable pulling the trigger. Then he says he got a call in December 2009 from Wulff, wanting to end the waffling. Forde was told he had until noon the next day to commit or the Cougars would move on.
Forde committed, saying he didn’t want to shut the door on the school he’d cheered for so long: “I was a huge, huge, huge Washington State fan.”
Still, it didn’t feel like it should. He had a strong bond with Akey and assistant Eti Ena.
“It wasn’t that the relationship wasn’t good with coach Wulff and coach (Travis) Niekamp,” said Forde. “I felt the relationship was a little bit stronger (with Idaho).”
While the Cougars told him he might play either offensive or defensive line, which Forde says was fine, his dad says, “The unfortunate thing with Washington State and some of the other schools recruiting him was they didn’t seem to figure out he wanted to play on the defensive side of the ball.”
Forde picked the Vandals, but that was hardly the end of it. Wulff was always outspoken about recruits who “flipped” on the Cougars, and he was critical.
“I go back on the parents and educating the kids, keeping them true to their word,” Wulff said. “A lot of people say, ‘That’s how recruiting is.’ I don’t believe in it, and I never will.”
Brian Forde fired back then, telling The Seattle Times, “You can’t fault an 18-year-old kid if he has a change of heart on something. If Washington State feels they got done wrong, maybe they got outrecruited.”
Today, Maxx concedes “it was a little bit messy. It could have been done better on my side, and probably on their side. I’m sorry for that a little bit, but I’m happy where I did end up.
“That (Wulff) quote about being raised the right way, that was a little disappointing. That was my decision. If he was going to be hard on anybody, I want it to be me. They’ve (his parents) done a great job raising me.”
Forde started as a sophomore in 2012 at defensive end and had four sacks. In three games this season under first-year coach Paul Petrino, he has 16 tackles and a sack.
Two years after Maxx picked Idaho, his sister Ali followed. She plays both volleyball and basketball.
“She couldn’t do just one,” sighed Brian Forde good-naturedly. “It’s her life.”
She might have taken a cue from her brother.
“At the end of the day,” her father said, “we raised our kids to be independent thinkers.”
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org