This December, Mike Utley, a Washington State offensive lineman from 1985-88, will become the fifth Cougar to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Former Washington State offensive lineman Mike Utley is one of 14 players who will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December, the National Football Foundation announced Friday morning.
“This is very overwhelming,” Utley said in a WSU press release. “Washington State University and head coach Jim Walden gave me an opportunity and I told him I would give 100 percent of myself. Playing for the Cougars was a wonderful experience and hopefully I’ve been able to pay it forward.”
The class of 2016 will include Utley, Florida State’s Derrick Brooks, UNLV’s Randall Cunningham, Purdue’s Rod Woodson and Iowa State’s Troy Davis.
A Seattle native, Utley played at WSU from 1984-88, starting 42 of 45 career games. During his senior year, he led the Cougs to their most successful season since 1929 when they finished 9-3 and earned a bid to the Aloha Bowl where they beat Houston 24-22. Utley was a three-time All-Pac-10 selection, and he finished his senior season as a consensus first team All-American.
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Thereafter, Utley was selected by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the 1989 NFL draft. He started at right guard for Detroit during his rookie year and played the next three seasons in Detroit despite being sidelined on several occasions due to injury.
Tragedy struck on Nov. 17, 1991 when, in a game against the Los Angeles Rams, Utley suffered a spinal cord injury that resulted in him becoming a quadriplegic. As he was being carted off the field, Utley flashed a thumbs up to the crowd that ultimately became his trademark.
Utley later regained the use of his arms, but still requires use of a wheelchair today. He also started the Mike Utley Foundation, a non-profit whose mission is to find a cure for paralysis, and which also supports research, education and rehabilitation for people living with spinal cord injuries.
Utley will be the fourthWashington State player, and seventh Cougar overall to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Offensive center Mel Hein was the first Cougar to make it to the Hall of Fame, when he was inducted in 1954. He was followed by tackle Glen “Turk” Edwards in 1975, coach Orin “Babe” Hollingbery in 1979, coach Forest Evashevski in 2000, running back Rueben Mayes in 2008 and coach William “Lone Star” Dietz in 2012.
Utley was inducted into WSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2007, he received the WSU Alumni Achievement Award and was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation Man of the Year.
“I speak for Cougars everywhere when I say how proud we are of Mike receiving this prestigious and well deserved honor,” WSU Director of Athletics Bill Moos said in the release. “He was a dominating player and truly one of the best to ever play the game.”
Full list of 2016 College Football Hall of Fame inductees:
- MARLIN BRISCOE – QB, Nebraska Omaha (1964-67)
- DERRICK BROOKS – LB, Florida State (1991-94)
- TOM COUSINEAU – LB, Ohio State (1975-78)
- RANDALL CUNNINGHAM – P/QB, UNLV (1982-84)
- TROY DAVIS – TB, Iowa State (1994-96)
- WILLIAM FULLER – DT, North Carolina (1981-83)
- BERT JONES – QB, LSU (1970-72)
- TIM KRUMRIE – DL, Wisconsin (1979-82)
- PAT McINALLY – TE, Harvard (1972-74)
- HERB ORVIS – DE, Colorado (1969-71)
- BILL ROYCE – LB, Ashland (Ohio) (1990-93)
- MIKE UTLEY – OG, Washington State (1985-88)
- SCOTT WOERNER – DB, Georgia (1977-80)
- ROD WOODSON – DB, Purdue (1983-86)
- BILL BOWES – 175-106-5 (62.1%); New Hampshire (1972-98)
- FRANK GIRARDI – 257-97-5 (72.3%); Lycoming (Pa.) (1972-2007)