Before we begin this story, there’s something you need to know about Mike Monan. Long before he became Woodinville’s offensive line coach, he played for the Washington Huskies and the legendary Don James. To this day, Monan LOVES the Dawgs.
But mention the Washington State Cougars, and Monan’s mood darkens. He’ll shoot you a look of suspicion and disdain. Make no mistake - this man hates the Crimson and Gray and everything those colors stand for.
Life, however, is about compromise. One of Monan’s prized former players is Andre Dillard, the 6’6” 310 pound lineman for Washington State. (Monan tried to steer him to UW, but it wasn’t in the cards).
Dillard’s senior season is coming to a close. Monan realized he was running out of time to see him play again for WSU. So two Saturdays ago, Monan made his move.
He talked to Harry Beresford, whose son Cade played for Woodinville and is now redshirting for the Cougars. Harry was driving to Pullman. He invited Monan to join him to see the WSU-Cal game Saturday night.
“Next thing I know,” Monan said, “I’m in Harry’s car at 7AM and we’re on the road to hell.”
The five-hour drive carried them across Snoqualmie Pass and through rolling hills of wheat fields. Monan didn’t wear any crimson. But not wanting to disrespect Andre, he didn’t wear purple either. He donned muted colors of black and gray.
The Cougars were staying at the Hilltop Inn, passing the time until that night’s game. Dillard had no idea Monan was coming.
When Monan arrived at the hotel lobby, he texted Dillard.
“MR. BERESFORD LEFT YOU A PACKAGE AT THE FRONT DESK. CAN YOU GO GET IT?”
Monan was talking to WSU assistant coach Mason Miller, when Dillard entered the room.
“I turned around and saw Andre,” Monan said. “I said `Hey! Look at your package here!”
Dillard grinned ear-to-ear. “Coach!” he said. “What are you doing here?” The two behemoths then bear hugged.
“We talked for 30-40 minutes,” Monan said. “We talked about the next step for him in the NFL. We all think he can do it. Some people have him projected as a second or third round pick. He is still in awe of it all. He’s just a grounded kid who doesn’t think he’s all that. Everything he’s done he has worked hard to get.”
The two also reminisced.
“You bring up Woodinville football, and Andre gets a little smile on his face,” Monan said. “He’ll say, `Aw those were the best days ever. When football was just fun.’”
One of Monan’s favorite stories happened during a Woodinville pre-season retreat to Warm Beach in 2012. At one point, the players put on a talent show. Impersonations were done.
“The kids had mimicked all the other coaches,” Monan said. “I was waiting for mine. Here comes skinny little Andre, he’s got a big shirt stuffed with a pillow.”
Dillard bellowed: “Here we GO!! Get in your DRILL LINES! Go!! You’ve got to PUNCH! You’ve got to PUNCH!”
Dillard then held up a tackling dummy and ordered a teammate to hit it. The teammate complied with a weak attempt.
“NO!!!!” Dillard roared. “You’ve got to PUNCH!!”
The performance brought down the house.
“But now, seeing him go from a skinny 15-year old kid to now in his early twenties where he’s a mountain of a man, is pretty awesome,” Monan said.
Woodinville’s highest-ever NFL draft pick was Marques Tuiasosopo. The quarterback was taken in the sixth round by the Oakland Raiders in 2001. It appears likely that Dillard will go in a higher round.
“I’ve never had a kid in that scenario thinking he’s going to make it to the NFL,” Monan said. “He’s been a longtime starter and he’s been perfecting his craft. I think he’s starting to realize he’s got that kind of talent.
“And here’s the best part of all,” Monan said. “He won’t be with Cougars anymore, so I can wear his jersey. I don’t care if it’s the Cleveland Browns. I’ll be more than happy to wear it!”
Highest Woodinville pick ever.