This is the second of five parts honoring the greatest Cougar players and coaches and highlighting someone who typifies an era of WSU football. Today, the school's best defensive players, with an update on LaVerne Torgeson, who represents the early post-war era.
Weight training meant how much you could eat, not how much you could lift. Face masks and two platoons were years away.
This was football the way LaVerne "Torgy" Torgeson played it at Washington State from 1948 to 1950. Simple and brutal.
In many ways, Torgeson typified Cougar football of the early post-war era. He came from a tiny Eastern Washington town (Lacrosse), was small by today's standards (6 feet, 205 pounds) and played both ways (center and outside linebacker). His first two WSU teams had losing records, and the '50 team was 4-3-1.
Torgeson, now 68 and retired in Huntington Beach, Calif., remained in football for 50 years. He missed only two games in eight NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins, played in five Pro Bowls and won NFL titles in 1952 and '53 on Detroit teams led by Bobby Layne. Football has left him with two artificial knees, a bum right shoulder, some trophies and a lot of memories.
Torgeson coached for 35 years, never as a head coach, but was an assistant in six Super Bowls with Pittsburgh and Washington and won three Super Bowl rings. He also coached a year in the World League for the Frankfurt Galaxy before retiring three years ago.
Torgeson never made more than $12,000 a year playing football, so he sold cars and worked on highway crews and as a bartender in the offseason.
"It's so specialized now," Torgeson said. "Players train year-round. They're in better shape and they're bigger. The game is more complex, too. They've opened it up, made it more exciting."
There's a down side, though, he thinks. "All the money the players can make has made them pretty independent," he said. "Most of them make more than the people that are coaching. They get a lot of money just for signing their name."
Torgeson, a member of the WSU Hall of Fame, recalls his Cougar years fondly, but hasn't been to a WSU game in years and has no plans to attend the Rose Bowl. Still, he is proud of the '97 Cougars, and he and his wife of 41 years, Nola, also a WSU grad, will watch on TV. "I've always been a good Cougar," he said. "And this should make every Cougar proud."