The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

WSU’s greatest athletes: from football to volleyball

Mix of current, legendary Cougs make up the greatest in program history
WSU volleyball coach Jen Greeny talks with her players during an NCAA volleyball match against UW, Nov. 25.

For over a century, WSU has fielded top-level athletic programs for student-athletes across the country. For years, these athletes have found success both in Pullman and professionally, whether nationally or internationally. 

Each incoming recruiting class has the potential to one day find themselves recognized as one of the greatest athletes to ever come through WSU, joining a list of recognizable names, whether a fan of the Cougs or not. 

Klay Thompson 

One half of the “Splash Brothers” for the Golden State Warriors, a four-time NBA Champion and a WSU legend, Klay Thompson is the most famous current WSU-alumnus athlete. Spending three seasons in Pullman, Thompson cemented himself in the record books as an all-time great, even having his jersey hang in the rafters at Beasley.

Story continues below advertisement

He is the all-time program leader in threes made (242), has the third-most points scored (1,756), the 10th most steals (130) and ninth-most minutes (3,367). 

The 10-year NBA veteran has spent his entire career with the Warriors, scoring 14,317 points, tallying 1,687 assists, 2,580 rebounds, 630 steals and 384 blocks. He is a five-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA member, but most importantly, a champion of the league four times over. 

Drew Bledsoe 

A 2001 WSU Hall of Fame inductee, Bledsoe is known most by casual football fans for being the guy who got injured, leading to Tom Brady beginning his legendary career. But he is so much more than one play, one injury. 

His best season was his junior year, a Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year campaign where he threw for 3,426 yards, 20 TDs and 15 INT. After that season, he declared for the NFL draft and became the top pick in the 1993 draft. 

Leaving a historic college career behind, he left WSU second all-time in passing yards and TDs with 7,373 yards and 46 TDs. 

In the NFL, he may not have been the Hall of Fame lock of a QB that the Patriots hoped for, but he went 98-95 as a starter and threw for 44,611 yards, 251 TDs and 206 INT. 

Jen Greeny 

Having a successful playing career and coaching career at the same program is not a light task, but Jen Greeny has done just that. A middle blocker at WSU from ‘95–98, she became the seventh player in program history to reach 1,000 career kills and ranks fourth in total blocks with 419. Named the WSU Athlete of the Year in ‘98–99, she was far from a slouch on the court. 

Taking over the reins in 2011 as head coach, she has gone 229-174, all while being named the 2016 Pac-12 Coach of the Year and 2021 Co-Pac-12 Coach of the Year. Leading her Cougs to seven-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, she is one of the most successful coaches in program history. 

Mel Hein

Likely the most overlooked player in WSU history, Mel Hein played for WSU from ‘28–30, playing center and linebacker for the Cougs during their 1930 undefeated Rose Bowl season. With his No. 7 retired, his legacy is oft-forgotten by current Cougs.

A 15-year NFL career ensued after his time at WSU, becoming a perennial All-Pro and becoming the first recognized NFL MVP in 1938. Winning the Championship in ‘34 and ‘38, he brought his winning pedigree to the professional level, being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. 

Magda Jehlárová 

The best active WSU athlete, Magda Jehlárová is near the end of her playing career, just four regular season games and a postseason run away from calling it a career. She is the program leader in career blocks, as well as being on the cusp of breaking the Pac-12 and NCAA record in the category. 

From being the national Freshman of the Year to a lock to be featured on the All-Pac-12 teams, she has dominated since coming to Pullman in 2019. There is only one thing she looks to prove in her final 2023 season: a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. 

Charlisse Leger-Walker 

Another current Coug great, Charlisse Leger-Walker, has done something no other WSU women’s basketball player can say: she was the leader of the team that ran the table and won the Pac-12 Championship.

The former All-American has scored 1,522 points in her career, averaging 17.3 points, 3.4 assists and 5.4 rebounds a game over her four seasons. She has the talent to be a professional player, it is all about where she wants to play at the next level. 

John Olerud 

What more is there to say other than Olerud has his number retired? Move over Shohei Othani, the greatest two-way baseball player, is from Pullman. Olerud hit .434 with 23 home runs at the plate at WSU and went 15-0 on the mound with a 2.49 ERA and 133 strikeouts during his ‘88 season. The only WSU baseball player to ever be named College Athlete of the Year. 

His success did not stop at the college level. He was part of the 2001 Mariners team that holds the record for most single-season regular season wins with 116. He won two World Series and won three Gold Gloves. He is certainly one of the most decorated Cougs. 

Morgan Weaver 

Morgan Weaver stood out on the pitch during her time at WSU. Playing from ‘16–19, she was an All-Pac-12 Freshman Team member and for the next three seasons, she made each of the All-Pac-12 first, second and third teams. 

With the second overall pick in the 2020 NWSL College Draft, the Portland Thorns selected her to be the future of their team. The Thorns won the 2022 NWSL Championship, with Weaver now being a champion in her sport. She got her first call-up to the United States National Team in November 2021 and has made two career appearances with the team.

Ron Cey 

Spending 17 years in the MLB, Ron Cey defied the odds. While he was a standout at WSU, a near two-decade-long career was not the expectation. Worth 53.8 WAR for his career, he hit 316 HR, 1,139 RBI, tallied 1,868 hits and was 21% better than the average hitter on average for his career. 

A part of the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers team that won the World Series, Cey was a Co-MVP of the World Series, hitting .350 and driving in six runs when it counted most. 

Sarah Silvernail 

The third WSU volleyball player on this list, Sarah Silvernail, is one of the only players that can challenge Jehlárová as one of the greatest to do it in Bohler. A 2001 Hall of Fame inductee, she played for the Cougs from ‘93–96. 

In her time, she set the record for career kills (1,848), single-season kills (649) and most kills in a match (39). In February, the Pac-12 announced that she would be a part of the 2023 Pac-12 Hall of Honor class. 

More to Discover
About the Contributors
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.
COLE QUINN, Evergreen Sports Photographer
Cole Quinn is a photographer and columnist for the Daily Evergreen. Cole primarily shoots sports for the Daily Evergreen and writes album reviews in his spare time. Cole is a junior broadcast production major and sports communication minor from Snoqualmie, Washington. Cole started working for the Evergreen in the fall of 2020 as a photographer. Cole was the Photo Editor during his sophomore year and Deputy Photo Editor for the fall 2022 semester.