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The Long Way Back
John Walters
October 06, 1997
One Washington State player lost his bride in a car crash. Another, his best buddy and linemate, was behind the wheel. Now the two survivors are struggling to save their friendship
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October 06, 1997

The Long Way Back

One Washington State player lost his bride in a car crash. Another, his best buddy and linemate, was behind the wheel. Now the two survivors are struggling to save their friendship

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Says McEndoo, "Our friendship went from a 10 to a minus-10."

McEndoo began seeing Jim Bauman, the Cougars' sports psychologist. Some days he and Bauman would spend four hours talking. McEndoo began taking an antidepressant, discovered a Web site for widowers, where he would lose himself for hours, and checked out a book from the campus library, Grieving by Therese Rando. The book would remain in his possession for the next year. "Occasionally I'd go to the library and pay my overdue fines," he says.

McEndoo ordered script-letter M's for the uniforms of his fellow linemen and quarterback Ryan Leaf, though, he says, "I began to think of myself more as a widower than as a football player." Still, he thought he was ready for the Aug. 31 opener at Colorado. He was wrong. Washington State's offense gained an anemic 168 total yards and allowed three sacks in a 37-19 loss. On the Cougars' final play McEndoo was responsible for allowing Leaf to be sacked. "I didn't even try to stop him," McEndoo says of the defender who beat him. "I unbuckled my chin strap and walked toward the sideline. I don't mean after the play. During the play."

Although Washington State won the next week at Temple, McEndoo had yet to rejoin the team in spirit. Leaf recalls what he saw as he walked the sideline after throwing the game-winning TD pass. "There's Jason," says Leaf, "alone at the end of the bench. He's got his face buried in his hands. His shoulder pads are just heaving up and down."

The next week Bauman met with the offensive linemen. Weekday position meetings last 30 minutes; this one went an hour and a half. The starters—McEndoo, McShane, Withrow, tight end David Knuff, left tackle Scott Sanderson and right guard Bryan Chiu—were there, as were McDonell and Livingston.

"Jason understands that he's been isolating himself," Bauman said in opening the meeting, "but he needs you guys to treat him the way you did before."

The players began to open up. Sanderson argued that it was up to McEndoo to end his self-imposed exile. Knuff said that it was time to stop acting as if nothing had happened. Even McEndoo took his turn. "I want to be part of this unit again," he said. "I want to be yelled at when I screw up!"

McShane, who felt emotionally ambushed, had heard enough. He stormed toward the door. Bauman, the only man in the room who'd never played on an offensive line, blocked him. "Get the hell out of my way!" McShane said, tears streaming down his cheeks.

Bauman stood his ground. "We're not leaving until we have this resolved," he said.

Finally everyone was dismissed except McEndoo and McShane. It had always been about the two of them anyway. "I don't know what you want from me," McShane said. "I love you, buddy, but I don't know how to do any of this."

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