June 12, 2008

"100 for 100" All-Time Team -- LINEBACKERS

Celebrating 100 of the top players in Eastern Football History as the school embarks upon its 100th season of football in the 2008 season. For more information, go to: http://goeags.prestosports.com/hallfame/ewas-100for100.html

 LINEBACKERS (11)

Complete List and Story in PDF Format Get Acrobat Reader

 &Indicates current member of Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame. *Member of the Dick Zornes All-Time Team (players from the years 1963-67, 1971, 1979-98)

No. - Name - Position - Hometown (Previous Schools) - Years Lettered - Honors/Notes/Stats

8 - Dion Alexander - Linebacker - Federal Way, Wash. (Federal Way HS '92) - 1992-93-94-95 - Third team FCS All-America in 1995; 313 career tackles.

9 - *Bill Altena - Outside Linebacker - Yakima, Wash. (West Valley HS `83) - 1983-84-85-86 - Held EWU record with 231 career tackles; Signed NFL contract with St. Louis.

44 - Greg Belzer - Linebacker - Chewelah, Wash. (Jenkins HS '96) - 1997-98-99-00 - Second team FCS All-America in 2000; Holds EWU record with 399 tackles.

49 - Joey Cwik - Linebacker - Spokane, Wash. (Mead HS '02) - 2002-03-04-05 - BSC Def. MVP in '05; 331 tackles; Never missed a game; Signed with Saints.

50 - Jason Marsh - Linebacker - Auburn, Wash. (Auburn HS '89) - 1991-92-93 - Third team FCS All-America in 1993; 347 tackles (second in EWU history).

9 - *Eric McIntyre - Outside Linebacker - Spokane, Wash. (Rogers HS & Cal-Berk.) - 1980-81 - Had 6 interceptions, but played before tackles kept & EWU was independent.

51 - *Jeff Metter - Outside Linebacker - San Mateo, Calif. (Hillsdale HS '78 & USC) - 1982-83 - Had 141 tackles and three interceptions in two seasons.

28 - &Herm Pein - Linebacker/Center - Addy, Wash. (Chewelah HS '46) - 1946-47-48-49 - All-Evergreen center and linebacker; Also a Pacific Coast Champion boxer.

45 - *Joe Peterson - Linebacker - Kirkland, Wash. (Juanita HS `88) - 1989-90-91-92 - First team All-Big Sky in '92 with 113 tackles, two interceptions, two sacks.

92 - *Derek Strey - Linebacker - Port Orchard, Wash. (South Kitsap HS 93) - 1993-95-96-97 - FCS All-America in 1997; 346 career tackles; Played two pro seasons.

57 - *Bill "Bink" Wall - Linebacker - Tekoa, Wash. (Tekoa HS `64) - 1965-66-67 - Won All-Evergreen Conference and Little All-Northwest honors in 1967.  


They were separated by nearly 60 years, but Herm Pein and Joey Cwik were true "iron men" at linebacker for their Eastern Washington University football teams.

Pein and Cwik are two of the 11 linebackers on Eastern's "100 for 100" All-Time Football Team being released in June by the EWU Athletic Department. The list of linebackers honored includes four All-Americans and a pair of Big Sky Conference Defensive MVPs. The top five tacklers in school history are represented, all with at least 300 tackles in their careers.

The overall "100 for 100" squad consists of 100 of the top players in school history to help commemorate the upcoming 100th year of football at Eastern. Players will be honored on Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Day on Sept. 27, 2008, in conjunction with EWU's Big Sky Conference football game with Idaho State. Starting June 18, the public is invited to vote on the top player at each position, with results announced on Sept. 27.

Pein was a second team All-Evergreen Conference center as a junior in 1948, then earned the same honor as a senior when he also garnered first team All-EvCo honors as a linebacker. He was the 1948 Pacific Coast heavyweight boxing champion and was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.

Cwik, who was the Big Sky Conference Defensive MVP in 2005, never missed a game in his Eastern career. He played 47 games with 40 starts, which was particularly impressive considering he played as a true freshman in 2002 and never redshirted. Interestingly enough, Cwik is planning to attend medical school and may pursue sports medicine -- something he didn't have to associate with much as a player.

Most importantly, both Pein and Cwik were winners. Eastern was 25-7-2 in Pein's four years at Eastern, including an 8-1 record in 1948 and a 7-2 mark in 1949. Cwik helped lead Eastern to winning seasons each year, with collective records of 28-19 overall and 17-11 in the Big Sky. In his final two seasons, Eastern was 11-3 in the Big Sky and 16-9 overall as Eastern won Big Sky Conference co-championships each year and advanced to the NCAA Championship Subdivision Playoffs both seasons.

"We had some pretty good ball players in those years," said the 79-year-old Pein, who has spent his lifetime living on the same ranch in Addy, Wash. "(My junior year) we beat the Montana schools (12-7 over Montana and 13-6 over Montana State) and lost to Puget Sound (22-6) that kept us out of the Raisin Bowl. It was quite a good year."

Eastern teams Cwik played on were just as successful, and he says the key factor may have been a construction project in the Spokane Valley prior to the 2004 season. About 40 Eastern players worked on the project in two shifts, putting in 12-hour days each.

"We hadn't gelled as a team, but working on that project in 80-90 degree weather, we learned a lot about each other," said Cwik. "You have to like each other and that bonded us. You have to be a team and find things to do with each other away from football."

Pein, whose son-in-law Trevor Westlund played for the Eagles from 1989-92, recalls that football in the 40s required most players to play on both sides of the ball. But that it was a system that was starting to decline in popularity.

"In my sophomore year I finally earned my keep," he said of the time when he became a two-way player.  "But you tried to keep guys fresh too."

As a player, he saw the early years of the game's evolution. He later went on to a 32-year coaching career at Chewelah High School, and was eventually selected into the Washington State Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

 "Football was getting better all the time," he said of the post-World War II era. "The game was getting a little faster and with more formations and plays. The game was changing instead of mass mayhem and players just running over everybody.

"We never had weight training until shortly after I played," he added.  "We didn't have very much (game film) in my day. But we started using it when I was coaching high school football." 

His short pro career began during the exhibition season with the New York Yanks of the National Football League in 1950 where he played with 5-foot-5 Claude "Buddy" Young, who was also a collegiate and amateur sprint champion.

"I got to play with and against some fabulous players," Pein said. "Buddy Young could stop on a dime and give you change. He had shoulder pads made of felt because nobody could catch him to hit him."

The Korean War delayed Pein's hopes to play in the NFL, but in 1953 he made it to the final cuts of the San Francisco 49ers before playing a short time for British Columbia in the Canadian Football League. He then returned to the same ranch in Northeastern Washington where he was born back on July 13, 1928.

Cwik also had a short pro career, but his collegiate career was rewarding enough. Besides his MVP honor, he was a first team All-Big Sky selection in both 2004 and 2005, and in 2003 was named to the second team. He was outstanding academically, earning a spot on the Big Sky All-Academic team all four years he played at EWU. In addition, he was selected to the Football Championship Subdivision Athletic Director's Association Academic All-Star Team in 2005 and was EWU's male recipient of the Big Sky Scholar-Athlete Award.

He finished his career with 331 tackles to rank fourth in school history. He also had 9 1/2 sacks, 28 total tackles for loss, five passes broken up, three interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles. He had 97 tackles as a senior.

But no memory was better than the three seasons (2002-04) he played for the Eagles with his brother Chris Cwik. A tight end, Chris earned first team All-Big Sky honors as a junior in 2003 and honorable mention as a senior.

 "He was a big inspiration for me," explained Joey, who graduated from Mead, Wash., High School in 2002, a year after his brother did.

"I was a leader because of other leaders, and he was a big leader to me. I really trusted him as one of my best friends. I had options to go to other schools, but his description of Eastern and how much he liked it was convincing to me. What the players and coaches said and how they acted during recruiting supported what Chris said 100 percent.

"I loved playing with him," he added. "Sometimes the linebacker has to man-up on the tight end, and that was fun at practice. Sometimes I would get the best of him and sometimes he would get the best of me. As a freshman I was running around with my head cut off. But I got a lot of encouragement from Chris. We encouraged each other which really helped us both." 

Joey feels fortunate to have never missed a game, but remembers he came close in 2003 when he strained his knee against San Diego State. The next game, an 8-5 victory over Idaho, he played in a brace. "It was hard to run on, but it was more of an injury where I had to ask myself, `am I just hurt or am I really injured?' So I played."

The only other close call wasn't from an injury, but from food poisoning the night before Eastern's thrilling, 35-31 playoff win at Southern Illinois in 2004. "I threw up all night and didn't get very much sleep. I took a lot of fluids but figured I would miss the game in bed. Thanks to the miracle of the I.V., I guess, I was able to play."

He doesn't view his 47-game streak as anything more than doing something he loved to do. But, he says, "I know I was pretty fortunate and blessed." he said when reminded that he had never missed a game. "When you enjoy doing something, you just do it and don't ask questions. When you love it, you'll go to work sick or play if you're injured, if you can."

"I never really thought about that," His mother, Patricia Cwik, was just as surprised. But as any mother would be, she was grateful he was relatively injury-free.

Chris, on the other hand, wasn't as lucky. He broke his elbow in wrestling as a seventh-grader, then broke it again at Mead and had to have surgery.

"We always thought Joey would be the one because he was always accident-prone," she explained. "But he made it. And Chris went on to play four years of football with a pin and screw in his elbow."

"It was stressful,"she said of having two sons playing football and risking injury on a daily basis. "But you just put it out of your head."

 Following his senior season, Joey went to a mini-camp with the Miami Dolphins of the NFL to try-out as a fullback, but he was not invited back. The New Orleans Saints then signed him to a contract, but they wanted him to attend a mini-camp before the spring quarter at Eastern was completed. Instead of doing that, he planned to be late and take a flight just hours after his last final. However, he changed his mind altogether, and decided to end his football career and start his career in the medical field.

A biology major while he was at Eastern, he is now working as a med tech assistant at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane and applying for medical schools. He hopes, in time, to secure a fellowship in sports medicine from Spokane Family Medicine.

And while he is honored to be named to the "100 for 100" squad, he's even more excited about what the future holds for him in the field of medicine.

"I like to think more about the present and future than dwell on the past," he said. "Memories are great, but I think I'll appreciate it more down the road when I see the guys I played with."

Pein, 60 years removed from an Eastern uniform, cherishes every memory and honor. "It's a super honor and I'm kind of surprised," he said. "But it sounds kind of fun."

 

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