"I was going to fly," says McShane, who is 6'6" and 305 pounds. "I didn't want to put the miles on my car. Plus the air conditioning didn't work. But it was best for all of us if I drove."
After the wedding McShane and the McEndoos attended the reception, staying out until nearly four in the morning. At about 2 p.m., after a celebratory brunch, they began their five-hour return trek. The radio, rendered inaudible by the onrushing wind, was off. Michelle unbuckled her seat belt, lay down and closed her eyes, but not before she jabbed Jason and pointed to his seat belt. "Put it on," she said.
McShane kicked off his sandals and set the cruise control at 70 mph. The Explorer crossed the Snoqualmie Pass and began its descent into the Columbia River Valley. Conversation between the linemen ended. The plan was to make one stop, in Ellensburg, about two hours into the trip; that exit was less than two miles away. The heat, silence and open road all induced a hypnotic state. McShane's head fell forward. The Explorer, moving in the lefthand lane, veered farther left, toward the median....
Since their arrival in Pullman in 1993, McEndoo and McShane had been as close as their surnames on the Cougars' roster. "Watching them hang out as freshmen, you would've thought they'd grown up together," says senior defensive tackle Leon Bender. "They were almost like brothers."
Brothers, not twins. McEndoo, an instate stud from Cosmopolis, had been coach Mike Price's top recruit that year, rejecting offers from Nebraska and Notre Dame. "Jason's a real student of the game," says offensive coordinator John McDonell. "If he comes in to see me, it's usually about football. Ryan's more easygoing. He'll just check in to say hi."
McShane, from Lafayette, Calif., is nicknamed Chop, an abbreviation of what teammates only half kiddingly refer to as his best move, the chop block. During their first week on campus, McEndoo returned to the dorm room he shared with McShane with a shiner on his left eye, the remnants of a fraternity-party scuffle. Chop led a parade of players back to the frat house. (Price dispersed the rabble before a brawl erupted.) More often, though, their antics were harmless, such as the time McEndoo and McShane borrowed an assistant coach's snow shovels, then buried his car.
It was McEndoo, also drowsy, who first noticed the danger—"I remember yelling, 'What's going on!' " he says—and lunged toward the steering wheel.
"I jerked it, cranked it hard to get back on the road, and I way overcompensated," says McShane, who was not wearing a seat belt. "The car was kind of on two wheels, jerking along. Then it rolled."
When a car starts to roll, passengers not wearing seat belts become projectiles. "After the first roll I went through the sunroof, and Michelle flew out the back window," says McShane. "We both flew 20 feet, and I landed on top of her. We were tangled up in a barbed-wire fence. I don't know for sure, but I probably broke her legs. Michelle probably saved my life, me falling on her."
Michelle's admonition before she drifted off to sleep, her last words, probably saved her husband's life too. He unbuckled, then crawled out of the wreckage, unharmed except for abrasions on his right arm. He searched for Michelle and saw her crumpled body, blood trickling out of one ear.