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
&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
6 - Josh Blankenship - Quarterback - Tulsa, Okla (Union HS '99 & Univ. of Tulsa) - 2002 - Second team FCS A-A in 2002 with 3,243 yds, 30 TD; Five seasons as a pro.
15 - &*Bill Diedrick - Quarterback - Spokane, Wash. (North Central HS) - 1965-66-67-69 - Second team NAIA All-America in 1967; 4,076 career yards and 50 TD.
14 - Harry Leons - Quarterback - Olympia, Wash. (Olympia HS '93) - 1995-96-97 - First team FCS All-America in 1997; 4,964 yards, 36 TD; Played in AFL.
9 - Erik Meyer - Quarterback - La Mirada, Calif. (La Mirada HS '01) - 2002-03-04-05 - Payton Award winner in 2005; FCS All-America in '04 & '05; 10,261, 84 TD.
16 - Matt Nichols - Quarterback - Cottonwood, Calif. (West Valley HS '05) - 2006-07 - Big Sky Offensive MVP in 2007 with 3,744 yards, school-record 34 TD.
3 - Abe Poffenroth - Quarterback - Spokane, Wash. (Rogers HS) - 1936-37-38-39 - Selected to the Red Reese All-Time Team; Was Eastern's head coach 1947-52.
14 - *Mark Tenneson - Quarterback - Sedro Woolley, Wash. (S. Woolley HS '88) - 1989-90-91-92 - Set EWU career record with 7,492 yards; 2,489, 18 TD for '92 BSC Champs.
15 - *Rick Worman - Quarterback - Saratoga, Calif. (Sara. HS `81 & Fresno St.) - 1984-85 - Hon. Mention A-A in 1985; 5,588 yards, 45 TD; Played in the CFL.
Mark Tenneson wasn't an All-American, he didn't play professional football and he isn't from the state of California.
But he did have respect, and that respect earned him a spot with seven other quarterbacks on Eastern Washington University's "100 for 100" All-Time Football Team.
The squad consists of 100 of the top players in school history to help commemorate the upcoming 100th year of football at Eastern. The "100 for 100" team 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 later today (June 18), the public is invited to vote on the top player at each position via the web, with results announced on Sept. 27.
Tenneson is among a select group of quarterbacks that includes a trio of California imports -- current Eagle and reigning Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP Matt Nichols; 2005 Walter Payton Award winner Erik Meyer; and 1985 All-American Rick Worman. They are joined by a trio of other All-Americans in Harry Leons (1997), Josh Blankenship (2002) and Bill Diedrick Jr. (1967). The eighth quarterback is Abe Poffenroth, who played from 1936-39 and would later become Eastern's head coach.
"It's a really, really great group of quarterbacks," said Tenneson, who played for the Eagles from 1989-92. "It was a real surprise to be among them and I never expected that I would ever make something like that. It's a big honor, and the further you get away from your playing days those things mean a little more to you."
League-wide respect is what earned Tenneson as spot on the team. He earned his place on the "100 for 100" team by being selected to the Dick Zornes All-Time Team as one of the top players in his 26-year association with Eastern Football.
When Tenneson was a senior in 1992, he led Eastern to the Big Sky Conference title and the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. He set five school records at Eastern, including passing yards (7,338), total offense (7,308) and touchdown passes (51). All but one of his records have been broken, but the team's success in 1992 will never be taken away.
"For me, this honor is more a reflection of how our team performed that year," he said from his family ranch in Sedro Woolley, Wash. "It's always great to put up big numbers and set records, but as a quarterback you're measured on your team success. To have that you have to have good players around you. The proudest accomplishment I will ever have is the '92 championship."
Tenneson was only an honorable mention All-Big Sky selection as a senior, but he was playing in an offensive-minded league that featured three quarterbacks that would go on to play in the National Football League -- Idaho's Doug Nussmeier, Weber State's Jamie Martin, and Northern Arizona's Jeff Lewis. Although none became a household name in the NFL, they combined for 25 years of experience with 68 games played, 10 starts and 4,479 yards.
In addition, Montana's Dave Dickenson was a freshman in 1992 and went on to lead Montana to the FCS title in 1995 when he also won the Payton Award. He has since gone on to a highly-successful career in the Canadian Football League.
"Those were years when the Big Sky was quite an offensive league," Tenneson said. "It was fun and there was a lot of scoring. Count them up, there were a lot of good quarterbacks in the league at the same time. I was maybe fifth-best."
But as a testament to Tenneson's importance to Eastern among that star-studded lineup of quarterbacks in the league, he was second in the balloting behind Nussmeier for Big Sky Offensive MVP.
"Even though I didn't receive the honors the other players did, I think I was respected in the league," said Tenneson, who passed for 2,643 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior. "We had some really talented quarterbacks in the league that year -- guys that started in the NFL. It was fun to compete and see if you could measure up."
He certainly did measure up, beating Montana 27-21, Weber State 32-14 and Northern Arizona 15-9, but falling to Idaho 38-21. However, he never gave himself the opportunity to see if he would measure up in the pro ranks.
Even though he was considered a pro prospect and had NFL scouts evaluating him, he got what he wanted out of the college football experience. He was projected to be taken as early as the eighth round or would most certainly be able sign a free agent contract, but decided to get on with normal day-to-day life instead.
"A lot of people have asked me about that, but my dream was to play high school and college football," he explained. "I didn't really have any thoughts to play beyond that. I would have had the opportunity to give it a try, but I felt like it wasn't for me. I was tired -- not so much physically but mentally. I had some highs and some lows in my career, but I ended on a good note and I felt like I was ready to be done with football.
"The stereotype is that everybody wants to play in the NFL," he added. "Most see college as the prerequisite to play professional sports. But for some of us, the college experience is what we wanted. Not everybody who plays college football is dreaming to cash in and play in the NFL. Not me at least."
So, how do you tell scouts that you aren't interested in the millions of dollars they throw at players, particularly quarterbacks?
"I basically told them I wasn't interested," he said. "The Seahawks called the day before the draft and wanted to know where I was going to be so they could call me if they picked me. I told them that they could draft me but I was done with football. I never heard from them again. It was kind of an interesting phone call and it was the last feeler I received. I never regretted it -- it was an easy decision to make."
"I remember the Giants in particular talking about the money and pretty much laughing about the fact I was a farmer. They said playing in the NFL could buy me 10 farms. That was a turnoff. For some guys that was a big key, but for me, that wasn't as big a factor in my life."
Yes, Tenneson was and still is a farmer raising cattle. But this is no ordinary ranch. And it's doubtful an NFL player could afford 10 of its kind.
On land homesteaded back in 1929 by his grandfather Turner Tenneson and later taken over by his father John Tenneson, Mark graduated from Eastern and promptly returned to the ranch of pure-bred dairy cattle. Named Skagvale Holsteins, the ranch essentially sells genetics through its breeding stock.
"We don't have a lot of head of cattle, but the ones we do have are special," said Mark, who is married and has a three-year-old daughter.
"We've done well," he continued. "Dad handed it over to us and farming has been good for us. We have a good life and we've made a good living from it."
He also coached at his alma mater -- Sedro Woolley High School -- for a time, and it gave him a new appreciation for coaching. It was something that helped him understand and appreciate his relationship at Eastern with Zornes, a disciplinarian known for getting the most out of his players.
"I coached at Woolley a couple of years and it was fun and I'm glad I did it," he explained. "But it's hard to take the player and make a coach sometimes. I enjoyed it but found out it maybe wasn't my thing. I still go to a lot of football games -- I like watching the young guys play.
"'Z' and I had an interesting relationship, but in the end it worked," he said. "That was part of growing up and dealing with those situations. We had different views at times, but we respected each other."
Going 3-0 as a starter versus rival Montana is no small measure of success for Tenneson and the Eagles . . .
One of Tenneson's greatest claims to fame will be the fact he was 3-0 as a starter against Montana, including two victories in Missoula. It doesn't matter that those wins came before the UM program got rolling and in one of the victories he had to be relieved in the second half when the Eagles trailed. Eastern's all-time record against the Grizzlies is just 10-23-1, so beating them three-straight seasons (36-35 in 1990, 20-17 in 1991 and 27-21 in 1992) is unprecedented and is certainly no small measure of success.
"Anytime you can beat Montana it's a milestone win," said Tenneson, who still watches that rivalry game with great interest every year. "Idaho was important, but I liked beating Montana. Their stadium is crazy and people are so close to you. It's a fun experience and fun to beat those guys. You earn respect doing that."
Tenneson said the victory over Montana in 1992 was what propelled Eastern into a tie with Idaho for the league title. Eastern finished the league season 6-1 and narrowly lost to Northern Iowa 17-14 in the playoffs.
"The Montana win was a big game for me and us because we really bought in at that point," he said. "A couple of games later we fell behind Montana State and came back to beat them (23-17). It really showed some character. I was horrible in that game and our defense really carried us until we got going in the second half."
The '92 season broke a streak of four-straight losing seasons for Eastern, which was struggling in its early years in the Big Sky. In the 15 years since then, Eastern has had 11 more winning seasons, three Big Sky titles and four more playoff berths.
"What we accomplished as a team was really what Eastern needed at that time," he said. "We needed to show we could compete at that level and belonged there."
"I still look back at how that team affected Eastern history," he continued. "It was a great bunch of guys. Even though we had a lot of underclassmen, everybody got along and we had the same path that year for whatever reason. Things just seemed to fall into place. People didn't expect much, but we got things done and accomplished a lot. Even when we didn't win we played to a level that impressed people."
"I remember after my sophomore year (in 1990) and all the guys were talking about where they would go to school (if Eastern left Division I)," Tenneson added. "Until then we hadn't showed we could compete. That team did a lot to show we could compete at this level, beat Montana and win championships. I wish that team could get more recognition for that."
Tenneson recalls the 14 seniors the Eagles had, including six senior defensive linemen. Besides Tenneson, linebacker Joe Peterson and defensive end Tommy Williams were seniors that season and are members of the "100 for 100" team. A total of 12 Eagles who played in 1992 made that all-time team.
"For me, the senior group changed the whole attitude we had," Tenneson said. "A lot of our leadership qualities came out and we had fun. We decided to play for ourselves and make something happen. A lot of guys filled needs and performed well, but our overall attitude was that football was a game and it was meant to be fun. That took a lot of that self-imposed pressure off."
"I felt very fortunate to play at his level of competition -- to play as much as I did and to have the success we did in 1992. That final year was the high point because we finally got to where we wanted to get to."