Sports

Mount Si players commit to Eastern

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SNOQUALMIE - Two Mount Si football standouts have committed to play football next fall at Eastern Washington University, a Division 1-AA school.

Considered by many to be one of the top senior high-school quarterbacks in the state, Mount Si quarterback Alex Smart has committed to play football this fall at Eastern along with 2002graduate and former free safety/kicker Brett Bergstrom.

According to Mount Si coach Charlie Kinnune, Smart chose the Eagles over Idaho and Idaho State, crediting Eastern for being more aggressive in recruiting. Kinnune said the Eagles were attracted to Smart's athletic ability and classroom work.

"They liked his athleticism [and] they like his speed. For a guy that's 6 feet 3 inches, 210 pounds and runs a 4.6 second 40-yard dash, you know, that shows great potential. They liked his academic scores [and] his test scores. It shows that he's well rounded, and people that are well rounded like that generally, you know, make it through a program," Kinnune said.

Smart finished the season with solid numbers. According to www.mswildcats.com, Smart completed 135 of 262 passes (51.5 percent) for 1,806 yards, and threw 13 touchdown passes. Smart's throws averaged 6.9 yards per throw for a total of 180.6 yards per game. His passing rating was 118.2.

In addition, Kinnune added that Smart leaves Mount Si and joins Eastern as the Wildcats' all-time leader in career passing yardage with 4,100.

Smart said he plans on majoring in a social studies related field, possibly U.S. history. However, he would like to eventually become an airline pilot.

"There's always possibilities in football after Eastern, but realistically, I'd like to be a pilot, a commercial pilot [for] one of the major airlines," Smart said.

A number of factors contributed to his decision to join the Eagles.

"The coaching staff, the people, the people that I met, they're obviously going to be returning and playing for Eastern next year. They're going to be my future teammates. I got along with them really [well] on my visit. I got along with the staff real well. They've got the best facilities, just as good as any for at least Division I-AA and the Big Sky [Conference]," said Smart.

Eastern Washington University competes in the Big Sky Conference with the likes of national power Montana and other excellent teams, such as Montana State and Northern Arizona. All three teams made it to the NCAA I-AA football playoffs this past season.

Being close to home also was important for Smart.

"Location-wise they were the best," the quarterback said.

The Eastern campus is located in Cheney, a 20-minute drive from Spokane, and a relatively easy three to four-hour drive from the Valley along Interstate 90.

Eastern head coach Paul Wulff understands what he is getting in Smart.

"He's a big, athletic quarterback that we really liked," said Wulff. "He has a strong arm and a lot of schools were interested in Alex. As he gets here and we surround him with some better talent at the receiver position and the offensive line, we think he's going to really flourish with a good supporting cast. He has a huge up-side athletically."

Bergstrom took a different route to Eastern. He left Mount Si in 2001 and attended school at Shasta Junior College in Northern California. There he played both kicker and strong safety. In his final season at Mount Si he was a first-team All-Kingco 3A selection at both wide receiver and defensive back, finishing the year with 45 catches for 619 yards and four touchdowns. He scored a total of six touchdowns and had 78 points, including kicking seven field goals for 21 points. Bergstrom played in the All-State football game where he kicked a 46-yard field goal for the only points scored by the West squad.

"I like their program, they are a good team," said Bergstrom. "I went up there [Mount Si] for winter break, they were at the high school and coach Kinnune called me and told me to come down and then they talked to me," said Bergstrom.

Coach Wulff has been impressed with Bergstrom since his prep days.

"We remembered him from high school," said Wulff. "He went down to Shasta as a kicker, receiver and defensive back, then he played only four games this past season because of a shoulder injury. He's a big safety that we would like to bring in and redshirt. We have a lot of veterans in our secondary, and we are going to graduate some of them after next year. If he redshirts next season, Brett could have two good years in front of him," said Wulff.

"They don't know what they are getting," said coach Kinnune. "Brett was here getting his shoulder surgery done and an Eastern coach was at the Skyline-Mount Si basketball game watching a Skyline player for football. I introduced Brett to this coach and said to take a look at this guy.

"They want to redshirt him this year and play him the next two years. But if he is healthy and his academics are there, I don't think they will waste a year on him. The minute he gets on campus and starts knocking people around, they won't waste him," he said.

Bergstrom will fill the role of strong safety as well as kicking duties.

"Big safeties are where it is at right now with the little guys going man-up at the corners. The safeties become a glorified linebacker and that is what he is. He will come up and rock your world," said Kinnune. "He is going to walk in, quiet and assuming and all of a sudden [boom], you are down on the ground with him looking over you.

"They also don't realize he can kick from the 35 yard line and kick it into the end zone consistently, high and deep," he added.

Smart and Bergstrom join two other Mount Si football players that have received Division I scholarships during Kinnune's long tenure: Justin Odom, who went to the University of Idaho, and Geoff Hise, who went to Boise State University. Smart, who is likely the top returning player for the Wildcats' varsity baseball team this season, will not play baseball at Eastern as it does not have a team. If baseball was a possibility, Smart said, he'd be making the same choice to focus on football.

"You don't see a whole lot of full scholarships in baseball ... I got a full scholarship to a state university and I can't pass it up just because I want to play baseball," Smart said. "Eastern [Washington University] is a state university and an educational degree from there is something to be highly regarded."

Kinnune expects Smart will ultimately feel comfortable at Eastern.

"There [are] a large number of Mount Si students that are attending Eastern, so he has the chance of going back to school with some former teammates," said Kinnune. "Their academic program is improving. I think Eastern is a university on the rise in our state right now."

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