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

Senior spotlight; celebrating WSU football seniors

Cougar football veterans to be recognized against Colorado in final game at GESA
WSU defensive edge Ron Stone Jr. (10) celebrates with fans after a win at a college football game on Oct. 9, 2021, at Martin Stadium in Pullman.

WSU will honor 17 seniors Friday night when they take on the Colorado Buffaloes. Despite a six-game losing streak coming in, the meaning of the players to the program, and to head coach Jake Dickert is evident more than just on the field.

“They’re extremely vital to our football program. I’m extremely appreciative of this group of guys. A lot of these guys I’ve been with for four years. So whether they’ve been here six months or six years, I’m just really appreciative of all the efforts and sacrifices these guys have made,” Dickert said.

There has been a lot of turnover, moving pieces and disrespect within and of the program since Dickert has been in charge, especially this year. When he was asked about the players sticking around and buying into his message, and their meaning to him specifically, Dickert gave an emotion-filled response.

“I get emotional because I care about these guys, because in four years I’ve been through a lot of things with some of these guys. And in today’s world, a lot of them had different opportunities. I get to see every day – a lot of people get to see guys sacking and making plays and catching balls – I get to see the hard work, the discipline, the dedication, the character, the values these kids really possess,” Dickert said with tears in his eyes.

Each one of the group has had a tremendous impact on the program in one wa y or another. Here are the seniors who helped make this program what it is today:

Ron Stone Jr. – sixth-year edge rusher

A team captain and All-Pac-12 player who has been in the program since the Leach days, Stone has been a rock for the Cougs on the defensive line, in the locker room and around campus. He is an example of a true Coug, who has shown loyalty in its truest form for all six years.

“I live with basically no regrets. I came back here for a reason, and I chose to come back here. I didn’t have to come back here, but I wanted to. I can understand that not everyone feels the same way that I do about these things. And not everyone is me,” Stone said.

Brennan Jackson – sixth-year edge rusher

Another example of commitment, Jackson came in and now makes his exit with Stone. A fellow team captain and All-Pac-12 player, Jackson is not only a great teammate and key to the WSU defense, he is someone to watch for at the next level.

Jackson is having a career year, with new personal bests in tackles (48), fumble recoveries (2) and sacks (6.5) with still two more guaranteed games remaining. He is beloved on the Palouse and will be remembered for years to come.

Lincoln Victor – wide receiver

A team captain and leader on the offensive side of the ball, Victor has given teammates the blueprint on how to work hard until their opportunity comes. In his fifth year in college, and third as a Coug, he now has recorded career highs in catches (73, previous best was 26), yards (723, previous best was 296) and touchdowns (four) despite missing multiple games due to injury.

“I’ve just been thankful for the process and thankful for the people I’ve met and thankful for this University. Just being able to put this jersey on and represent not only the Coug logo, but my last name as well,” Victor said. “Super grateful for this journey and it’s just the beginning.”

Konner Gomness – center

Another team captain, Gomness anchors the Cougar offensive line at center, having been named to the preseason Reese’s Senior Bowl watchlist and being named the Pro Football Focus College Football Center of the Week in week eight. Despite an extra year of eligibility, Gomness is ready for “the world of work,” Dickert said.

“Konner is gonna be studying abroad next semester and I’m very excited for him,” Dickert said.

Sam Lockett III – safety

Lockett worked his way up from playing as a freshman at Utah State in 2019, and not cracking the playing field until 2022 with the Cougs, to be a staple of the secondary the last two seasons. He was also named to the preseason Reese’s Senior Bowl watchlist.

2023 has also been a career year for Lockett, recording a personal best 65 tackles as well as getting his first career half sack and forcing his first career fumble. With two games left, Lockett has a great chance to keep proving his case to pro scouts.

Simon Samarzich – long snapper

Often going unrecognized, Samarzich has been as steady as they come setting up punts and field goals for WSU during his tenure. Being named a Patrick Mannelly Award semifinalist for the nation’s top long snapper, there is no doubt who has been the most consistent Coug this season.

“[Longsnappers] never get enough credit. The only time you ever hear his name is when something goes wrong. I’ve been trying to scour the earth to see if Simon has another year of eligibility, that’s how comfortable we are with him and what he does. Great energy, he wants to be a coach, just a pleasure to have in our program. There’s never a thought about something not being perfect,” Dickert said.

Na’im Rodman – defensive tackle

As a result of the mass exodus at Colorado, Rodman now will be recognized as a senior in front of his former team. He has been a starter on the interior of the Cougs defensive line all season, recording a career-high 24 tackles to this point.

“I’m just happy to play football, it’s any other week for me,” Rodman said. “It’s changed me as a man, going from one place to another and starting over again… I’m at, where I wish I was at this point last year.”

Nakia Watson – running back

A former Wisconsin transfer, Watson is an All-Pac-12 player and was named to the Reese’s Senior Bowl watchlist as well as multiple award watchlists in the preseason. Despite an injury-riddled season, Watson has played a key role in the offense, also mentoring multiple freshman tailbacks.

Cam Lampkin – cornerback

Lampkin rotated in and out at the beginning of the year but has solidified himself as the team’s top corner healthy, and No. 2 corner behind Chau Smith-Wade. Often faced with the most targets and toughest matchup as a result, Lampkin has a career-high seven passes defended with two games to go.

Ma’ake Fifita – offensive guard

A key in the Cougs’ offensive line rotation, Fifita has played both sides of the line and started multiple games this year for WSU. With his legacy close to being fully established, he now looks to pursue his post-graduate goals.

“Ma’ake is graduating with his engineering degree and I’m just so proud of him and his choice and excited for him,” Dickert said.

Isaiah Hamilton – wide receiver

One of three Mountain West receivers to make their way to Pullman last offseason, Hamilton’s role has grown throughout the year. From a depth piece to now a key slot receiver and starting return man, Hamilton consistently has the ball in his hands. In just his second year with the duty, he has a career-high 39 punt returns and 95 kick return yards this season.

Devin Richardson – linebacker

In his first year starting since 2019, Richardson has worked in a trio of Cougs to fill the major gap left at linebacker following last season. As the Coug’s fourth-leading tackler, the Texas transfer is one to watch each week on the Wazzu defense.

Cameron Johnson – tight end

Johnson made his way from Army to El Camino College before making his way to WSU last season. This year he has had an expanded role blocking and receiving, even getting reps at outside receiver. Johnson is part of a four-man crew working to reinvent the tight end position at WSU.

Colton Theaker – kicker

Also making his way around, Theaker worked his way from Cal Poly to Allan Hancock College before landing at WSU a year ago. He has operated as the Cougs primary kickoff specialist since and is tied for 14th in the country with 43 touchbacks this season, not giving opposing returners a chance.

Joshua Erling – linebacker

The Snohomish native Erling made his way to John Fox University before coming to WSU in 2019. Primarily a special teamer, Erling has served as key depth at the linebacker position in 2023, while still filling his role as a specialist. His first career tackle came in the Apple Cup a year ago.

Christy Nkanu – offensive lineman

Nkanu made his way from Southern Utah to the Palouse for his senior season. He has proven to be a valuable utility piece on the Cougar offensive line, filling gaps at guard and tackle, getting game reps at right tackle earlier this season.

Chris Jackson – defensive back

Jackson was the No. 38 cornerback prospect in the country out of high school, and as a result, found his way to East Lansing to play for the Michigan State Spartans. He transferred to WSU before the 2021 season and has played in nearly every game for the Cougs since as either a special teamer, filling in as key depth at corner.

Whether you know their name or not, each of these players has been another key piece to the puzzle for this WSU football team. And with this being their last home game in front of the Coug faithful, there is one message that needs to be heard.

“It’s about the place more than anything and Gesa field, and the pageantry and coming out of the locker room. Been really appreciative of our fan base this season,” Dickert said. “One more time Friday night, I know it’s Thanksgiving week coming. We need you to be here. We need you to pack the house.”

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About the Contributor
LUKE WESTFALL, Evergreen sports co-editor
Luke Westfall is a junior in Broadcast News from Custer, WA. He is an avid fanatic of the many sports at many levels who spends all his available time indulging in them. Luke began working at the Evergreen in Spring 2022.