Sophomore Romeo Pellum, born partially blind in his left eye, is starting at cornerback and is becoming a leader for the Cougars' defense.
PULLMAN — Paul Wulff was still getting to know his players, so you really can’t blame him. It was, after all, his first spring camp as the football coach at Washington State when he noticed something a little off-center.
Romeo Pellum, a player who frequently puts a smile on Wulff’s face, showed up to practice wearing something Wulff had never seen.
Pellum had eye black under only one eye.
“What are you doing?” Wulff asked.
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“Coach, I can only see out of one eye,” Pellum said.
Pellum, who won the highly contested battle at left cornerback in fall camp, was born partially blind in his left eye. He can see movement and color in the eye.
“He doesn’t ever talk about it,” fellow cornerback and roommate Tyrone Justin said. “He just plays.”
Pellum saw a doctor when he was 13 and considered corrective surgery, but decided against it because there was some risk.
“I had already learned to go through life with one eye,” Pellum said. He started playing organized flag football when he was 4.
Pellum (5 feet 9, 160 pounds) played in 10 games as a freshman in 2007, and was primarily assigned to special-teams duties. He has started all six games for the Cougars this season, recording 24 tackles and three passes defended. Not overwhelming numbers, but given the Cougars’ inability to stop the run, teams haven’t been passing a lot against WSU.
Coaches are encouraged by Pellum’s growth and consistency this season despite what appeared to be an exposure of WSU’s secondary in last Saturday’s 28-3 loss to UCLA.
“I’m really proud of him,” cornerbacks coach Jody Sears said. “I really rode him pretty hard in spring camp and fall camp, but he’s come a long way. In the last two or three weeks especially, he’s really taken on a new leadership role.
“I’ll tell you what, he’s really good on Saturdays. I mean as far as being mentally into it, and being in the flow of the game, and leading. He always has so much energy.”
Pellum has six tattoos that all have special meanings to him — one is a tribute to his siblings, another to his mother and grandmother, another that wraps beneath his neck that says “Living the Dream.”
“I really feel like I am living the dream right now,” he said. “I just try to set a good example, obviously being a starter you have to set a good example for younger players. We need a lot of leadership right now to turn this thing around.”
• Running back Dwight Tardy (knee) was unable to practice and is questionable. RB Chris Ivory was ruled out early in the week with a hamstring injury. Guard Steven Ayers (neck injury and concussion) is also out. CB Markus Dawes, DB Tyrone Justin, LB Mike Ledgerwood, LB Cory Evans and WR Daniel Blackledge should all be available.