After a transformative offseason, WSU nose tackle Daniel Ekuale is playing the best football of his life

In four years at WSU, Cougars nose tackle Daniel Ekuale has weathered through some tough times. But after a huge offseason, he’s returned for his senior year in better shape than ever, with a whole new mindset

The worst day of Daniel Ekuale’s four years at Washington State came last July, when the entire Cougars football team was punished after some players were accused of starting a fight at an off campus party.

Two WSU students were injured in the brawl, and in initial reports, two Samoan WSU football players were accused of being the responsible parties, though one, Robert Barber was later found not guilty by a Whitman County jury. The other, T.J. Fehoko, has since been dismissed from the team.

But way before all that played out, WSU coach Mike Leach put the entire football team through a hellish summer day of extra conditioning as penance.

Wearing thick metal chains around their necks, the team marched up and down every single flight of steps at Martin Stadium before being forced to roll their bodies down multiple lengths of the football fields.

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“It was terrible. That was my worst day,” says Ekuale, now the starting nose tackle who will lead 20th-ranked WSU’s defensive line against Boise State this Saturday at Martin Stadium.

It wasn’t just the punishment that made that day so hard for Ekuale. The party fight struck off a 10-month ordeal for Ekuale’s roommate, Barber, WSU’s former nose tackle who was initially expelled by the school’s conduct board for his alleged role in the fight, then spent months fighting his case before he was finally cleared of the assault charge in court in May.

Looking back on last season, Ekuale says Barber’s ordeal affected him deeply, and in some ways, it served as the catalyst for the drastic improvements he’s made to his game this offseason.

Even though he did not participate in the fight, Ekuale was one of the many football players who attended the party last July, and he came away from the incident feeling as if he’d disappointed both his football family and his Samoan family at home in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

“It was really a letdown, not only for our team, but for our culture too, where Rob and I are from,” Ekuale said. “It was really bad, the timing and the situation. It was not a good time for us, and what we were trying to build last year.

For Ekuale, Barber’s ordeal reinforced…

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