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20 for 20: Ranking Eastern Washington’s top 20 athletes since 2000

UPDATED: Sun., July 19, 2020

Trying to pick the top 20 Eastern Washington athletes of the 2000s is about as hard as shedding a Samson Ebukam tackle or beating Kendrick Bourne in a foot race.

The Los Angeles Rams linebacker and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver didn’t even make the cut.

Considering the throngs of All-Americans the Football Championship Subdivision power Eagles have produced since Y2K, narrowing down the best EWU careers is an arduous task.

Then there’s the men’s and women’s basketball programs that have pumped out several Big Sky Conference stars, a competitive women’s soccer program and several athletes from other sports who left their marks.

This was like squeezing Michael Roos into a Prius.

The selection criteria: Athletes need to have at least played half of their careers at EWU in the 2000s and more than one season. Jacob Wiley, who earned Big Sky men’s basketball MVP in his single season in Cheney in 2016-17, doesn’t qualify.

Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp  hauls in a pass against Central Arkansas during the first half of an FCS playoff on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at Roos Field in Cheney. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp hauls in a pass against Central Arkansas during the first half of an FCS playoff on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at Roos Field in Cheney. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

1. Cooper Kupp, football (2013-16): All the sure-handed receiver from Yakima did in his marvelous four All-American years at EWU was set 15 FCS receiving records, win Jerry Rice Freshman of the Year in 2013, the Walter Payton Award in 2015 and get selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft. Kupp totaled 428 receptions, 6,464 receiving yards and 73 touchdown catches at EWU. In his three years with the Rams, Kupp, who missed most of the 2018 season with an injury, has 291 receptions for 2,596 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Eagles guard Rodney Stuckey ranked seventh in the nation in scoring (24.6 ppg) during his sophomore season of 2006-07 before being drafted by the Detroit Pistons.  (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)
Eagles guard Rodney Stuckey ranked seventh in the nation in scoring (24.6 ppg) during his sophomore season of 2006-07 before being drafted by the Detroit Pistons. (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)

2. Rodney Stuckey, men’s basketball (2005-07): Stuckey won both the Big Sky’s Freshman of the Year and MVP awards as a freshman before ranking seventh in the country in scoring (24.6 points per game) in a sophomore All-American season. The strong, athletic guard left Cheney for the NBA two years early, selected 15th overall by the Detroit Pistons in 2007. Stuckey, whose No. 3 jersey is retired at Reese Court, averaged 12.9 points and 3.7 assists in 11 NBA regular seasons.

Janelle Ruen of Post Falls was the first EWU female athlete to earn All-Big Sky Conference recognition in two sports (volleyball, basketball).  (The Spokesman-Review)
Janelle Ruen of Post Falls was the first EWU female athlete to earn All-Big Sky Conference recognition in two sports (volleyball, basketball). (The Spokesman-Review)

3. Janelle Ruen, volleyball and basketball (1999-2003): The Post Falls native was the first female athlete in EWU history to earn All-Big Sky recognition in two sports in 2001 before earning Big Sky MVP honors in 2002 for volleyball.

Ruen totaled more than 1,100 kills and 1,100 digs in her decorated volleyball career and averaged 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals in basketball.

Steam rises off the head of Michael Roos during a 2004 FCS playoff game against Sam Houston State in Cheney.  (The Spokesman-Review)
Steam rises off the head of Michael Roos during a 2004 FCS playoff game against Sam Houston State in Cheney. (The Spokesman-Review)

4. Michael Roos, football (2000-04): The 6-foot-7, 300-pound offensive tackle helped pave the way to the Eagles’ 2004 Big Sky title, earning All-American honors in the process. Roos was picked 41st overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2005 NFL draft and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2008. Roos donated $500,000 to EWU’s revamped stadium and red turf renovation in 2010, leading to the facility’s name change from Woodward Field to Roos Field.

Taiwan Jones, who rushed for 1,742 yards and 17 touchdowns during the Eagles’ march to the 2010 national title, rambles for a 77-yard TD against Sacramento State  (The Spokesman-Review)
Taiwan Jones, who rushed for 1,742 yards and 17 touchdowns during the Eagles’ march to the 2010 national title, rambles for a 77-yard TD against Sacramento State (The Spokesman-Review)

5. Taiwan Jones, football (2008-09): One of the most electric players in all of college football during his time in Cheney, Jones rushed for 1,742 yards and 17 touchdowns during the Eagles’ 2010 national championship run despite missing three games due to injury. Jones, a former defensive back at EWU, totaled 2,995 yards in two seasons as a running back . The All-American was drafted in the fourth round by the Oakland Raiders in 2011. The NFL veteran is currently a member of the Houston Texans.

6. Tyler Harvey, basketball (2012-15): When the sharpshooting guard spearheaded EWU’s run to the 2015 NCAA Tournament and program-best 26 wins, he did it in style. Harvey led the nation in scoring (23.1 ppg), 3-pointers made (128) and was an All-American honorable mention. Harvey averaged 18.6 points in three seasons at EWU before the Orlando Magic drafted him with the 51st overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. He now plays professionally in Europe.

7. Erik Meyer, football (2002-05): Meyer was the first in a string of elite FCS quarterbacks in the 2000s, winning the Walter Payton Award in 2005 as well as back-to-back Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year honors. The two-time All-American had an impressive 65.7% career completion percentage, 10,261 yards, 84 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 42 games. He later had stints in the NFL, Canadian Football League and Arena Football League.

EWU’s Alvin Snow, who scored 1,396 career points, celebrates with fans after beating Northern Arizona in March 2004, to clinch the Eagles’ first NCAA Tournament berth.  (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)
EWU’s Alvin Snow, who scored 1,396 career points, celebrates with fans after beating Northern Arizona in March 2004, to clinch the Eagles’ first NCAA Tournament berth. (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)

8. Alvin Snow, basketball (2000-04): Snow’s four-time All-Big Sky career included league freshman of the year (2001), defensive player of the year (2003) and MVP (2004) distinction. Snow, who went 41-17 in career Big Sky games, helped the Eagles reach their first NCAA Tournament in 2004 and a berth to the NIT in 2003. He totaled 1,396 career points, 318 assists and 212 steals.

Eastern Washington quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell celebrates with Eagles fans after defeating North Dakota State in overtime on December 11, 2010, in Cheney.  (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell celebrates with Eagles fans after defeating North Dakota State in overtime on December 11, 2010, in Cheney. (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)

9. Bo Levi Mitchell, football (2010-11): Mitchell transferred to EWU from Southern Methodist in 2010, immediately helping the Eagles win their first FCS national title. In 2011, he became the second EWU quarterback in program history to win the Walter Payton Award. Mitchell, now a two-time Grey Cup champion quarterback with CFL’s Calgary Stampeders, finished his two-year EWU career completing 61.3% of his passes for 7.508 yards and 70 touchdowns.

Eastern Washington forward Delaney Hodgins  (Dan Pelle/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Eastern Washington forward Delaney Hodgins (Dan Pelle/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

10. Delaney Hodgins, women’s basketball (2014-18): Hodgins is the program’s all-time leading scorer (2,120 points) and one of the most efficient guards in Big Sky history, starting all 129 games of her four-time all-conference career. Hodgins had 15 double-doubles at EWU before playing professionally in Europe, retiring this year.

11. Matt Nichols, football (2006-09): Nichols, now a veteran CFL quarterback with Toronto Argonauts, was a rare four-year starter at EWU. He still holds the Big Sky all-time career passing mark (12,616 yards).

Nichols was the 2007 and 2009 Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year, finishing his EWU career with a 62% completion percentage, 96 touchdowns and 46 interceptions.

12. Vernon Adams, football (2012-14): Adams had an exciting three years at EWU before transferring to Oregon, leading the Eagles to three Big Sky titles, three postseason appearances and two national semifinals.

The two-time Walter Payton Award finalist, two-time All-American two-time Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year totaled 10,438 yards, 119 touchdowns and 31 interception with a 64.8% completion percentage. If Adams, now a starting quarterback for the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, would have stayed in Cheney his senior year, he likely would have shattered EWU and Big Sky records.

13. J.C. Sherritt, football (2007-10): The former Pullman linebacker was the first player in EWU history to have more than 400 career tackles, leading the FCS in 2009 (170). Sherritt was a key cog in the Eagles’ 2010 national title run, earning the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the best defensive player at the FCS level. Sherritt played nine seasons with the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos and was the CFL Defensive MVP in 2012.

14. Bogdan Bliznyuk, basketball (2014-18): Bliznyuk is EWU’s all-time leading scorer (2,169 points) and briefly held the Big Sky’s all-time mark. He was the Big Sky Freshman of the Year, a two-time second-team selection and the league’s MVP as a senior.

He had career averages of 21.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists. He is playing professionally in Europe and is a member of Ukraine’s national team.

Chloe Williams  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Chloe Williams (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

15. Chloe Williams, soccer (2014-2017): Williams, a Lewis and Clark High graduate, was a three-time Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year at EWU and four-time All-Big Sky pick, leading the Eagles to two Big Sky Tournament titles and two NCAA Tournaments. Williams totaled 109 points, 44 goals and 347 shots, all EWU and Big Sky records . She also had 21 career assists.

16. Greg Peach, football (2005-08): The 6-3, 255-pound defensive end became EWU’s first Buck Buchanan Award winner in 2008 when he had 72 tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss and 18 sacks. Peach, who finished his All-American career with 35 sacks, played seven years in the CFL.

17. Venky Jois, basketball (2012-2016): Jois ranks second all time in EWU career scoring (1,803) and was a four-time All-Big Sky selection. The 6-8 Australian started 120 of 122 career games and averaged 14.8 points, 8.3 rebounds. 2.3 assists and two blocks, helping EWU reach the NCAA Tournament in 2015.

Eastern Washington Eagles forward Mason Peatling (14) dribbles the ball against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks during a college basketball game on Saturday, February 22, 2020, at EWU in Cheney, Wash.  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Eastern Washington Eagles forward Mason Peatling (14) dribbles the ball against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks during a college basketball game on Saturday, February 22, 2020, at EWU in Cheney, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

18. Mason Peatling, basketball (2016-2020): Peatling, another 6-8 Australian, was a steady presence for EWU all four seasons, capping a successful career in March by becoming the program’s fifth Big Sky MVP. Peatling helped the Eagles win an outright Big Sky title last winter with averages of 17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists and 1.4 blocks.

19. Kurt Kraemer, track and field (1999-2003): Kraemer, an All-American leaper, placed ninth at the 2001 indoor championships in the triple jump (52 feet, 1⅓ inches) and 13th in the long jump (24-7¼). His top marks in the triple jump (53-5½ indoors, 52-4 outdoors) rank first and third, respectively, in school history. His best indoor long jump (24-7¼) and high jump (6-9¾) are also among the best.

Eastern Washington’s Hayley Hodgins, left, high fives Mariah Cunningham, right, as they are introduced at a preseason event for the Eagles’ basketball teams Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014 at Reese Court at EWU.  (JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington’s Hayley Hodgins, left, high fives Mariah Cunningham, right, as they are introduced at a preseason event for the Eagles’ basketball teams Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014 at Reese Court at EWU. (JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review)

20. Hayley Hodgins, women’s basketball (2012-16): Before younger sister Delaney Hodgins broke EWU’s career scoring record, it belonged to her older sibling. Hayley Hodgins (1,865 points) broke the 30-year-old record in 2016, capping a career included All-Big Sky distinction all four seasons.

Next 10: Jesse Chatman, football (1999-2001); Kathleen Nygaard, women’s basketball (2000-04); Eric Kimble, football (2001-05); Brandon Kaufman, football (2009-12); Hayley Hills, volleyball (2006-10), Samson Ebukam, football (2013-16); Brianne Ryan, women’s basketball (2008-12); Keshun McGee, men’s track and field (2015-20), Gage Gubrud, football (2015-18); Marc Axton, men’s basketball (2001-05).

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