Reid Forrest, a former top player for WSU, changed his life by accident and became a….more

Growing up in Ephrata, Reid Forest’s greatest childhood desire was to attend Washington State University and run into Martin Stadium on Saturdays in the fall, just as his father Jim had done.

From his Kennewick, Oregon, home last month, Forrest, now 36, told Cougfan.com, “It’s crazy to look back on all of it that it actually happened.” “I’m going to be able to pull out my cleats one day, and show them to my kids, and tell them about all this … it was a great journey.”

Forrest is undoubtedly one of the best punters in WSU history. He kicked 11,753 yards with the Cougars between 2007 and 2010. That ranks as the fourth-highest in the Pac-12 since the conference’s founding in 1915, to put things in context. He has the most punts in WSU history at 275, which is a testament to his durability, brilliance, and string of forgettable seasons.

Upon graduating, he was the record holder for both the career and single-season punting averages (42.7 and 45.4, respectively), having earned an honorable mention All-America selection as a senior in 2010.

In 2010, Forrest was very pleased with his 45.4 yards per punt. With WSU’s offense being the lowest in the Pac-10 that autumn, Forrest was sometimes had to punt seven or eight times a game, typically deep in his own territory. Forrest took satisfaction in his ability to routinely flip the field and give WSU’s defense a chance.

“I might not be Elon Musk, but I’ve left my name in history somewhere that my kids and grandkids can read about,” Forrest stated. And I’m really happy with it. Our goal has always been to compete against the biggest names, especially after the Pac-12 was destroyed.”

Though it’s all part of Cougar legend today, Forrest didn’t think about being an All-American when he first came on the Palouse in the fall of 2006 as a tiny walk-on freshman. Punting didn’t work either.

He came to Pullman as a messenger. Playing mostly on the scout squad, the 6-foot-1, 181-pound player was excited to have his “butt kicked” in order to assist his more highly touted colleagues be ready for Saturdays.

With a laugh, Forrest remembers, “I was getting the absolute crap kicked out of me by the first-team defense.” “I remember running across the middle, catching a pass, and just getting blown up by [safety and future NFL player] Eric Frampton and all those guys.”

Forrest’s first three months as a Coug were spent only on the scout team, and he was happy playing that position. His goal has always been to assist WSU in any manner he can. However, late in that 2006 freshman season, an odd series of events happened that would alter the trajectory of Forrest’s life.

The starting punter for WSU, Darryl Blunt, became very ill while traveling by plane to a critical late-season game against UCLA. Just hours before kickoff, Blunt went to the hospital when the plane touched down, leaving the Cougs without a punter.

Michael Bumpus, a versatile athlete from Culver City High School and star receiver and return guy, was asked to fill in as the emergency punter. Fortunately, WSU would boldly go for it on fourth down and easily win 37–15, requiring his services just once (a miserable 15-yarder).

“The very next day, (head coach) Bill Doba comes up to me, and I didn’t even think he knew who I was at that time,” Forrest recalled. “‘You punted in high school right?’ he asked as he approached me. Yes, I did, I replied. “All right, now I want you to start punting and showing up early for practice.”

Forrest played all-state punting for Class 2A Ephrata, but he never gave bringing that ability to college any thought. He gave Washington State nearly all of his footage as a quarterback, with very few punting and kickoff films.

“I did punt in high school, but it was Ephrata so I’m the quarterback, I’m kicking off, I’m free safety, I’m doing everything but serving popcorn at halftime,” Forrest says. I thus didn’t know how far back I was meant to stand. I had no idea that you were meant to strive to make the ball spiral, let alone know about footwork.”

Forrest had somewhat of a Kurt Hummel moment on the first practice punting day. Following a brief review of the fundamentals by special teams coach Kelly Skipper, Forrest began smashing balls farther downfield than Blunt, the starter.

Doba saw the raw talent in Forrest. Although he was not inclined to burn Forrest’s redshirt, he did urge Forrest to go to Chris Sailer’s punting camp in California during the summer before the 2007 campaign.

Forrest respectfully requested $5,000 from his parents, Kay and Jim Forrest, the former tight end at WSU (1969–1972), in order to pay for camp expenditures. With thanks, Forrest narrates, “They paid for it with zero hesitation.”

By the time 2007 rolled around, Forrest had cemented himself as Blunt’s backup punter. And then destiny intervened once more.

Forrest recalls it clearly, the cacophony of 90,000 boisterous USC supporters ringing in his ears. And there was an extra sparkle to the proceedings when Snoop Dogg and Will Ferrell were spotted hanging out on the sidelines of the L.A. Coliseum during the Cougs’ preseason game versus the top-ranked Trojans.

Doba approached Forrest after Blunt botched a punt and stated, “You’re in on the next one.”

On the following play, WSU went three and out at the one-yard line, burying Forrest in the endzone for his first-ever collegiate punt. All that between him and a safety on the national ESPN broadcast was a blade of grass.

“The cameraman behind me says, ‘are you nervous?'” Forrest stated. “It was a total out-of-body experience.”

Forrest gave it everything he had to make sure he caught the snap from Zach Enyeart, the old dependable long snapper who would go on to find Forrest the ball on each and every punt in his WSU career. With a mere 1-yard return, Forrest expertly navigated the ball 38 yards on his first attempt. And he didn’t turn around—the job was his.

As for Enyeart, Forrest doesn’t mince words: “He was a major part of my success — he was a great snapper.”

Forrest had a lot of special achievements over his WSU career … breaking Jason Hanson’s 20-year-old single-season record for punting average, sending 19 punts for 50 yards or more, serving as a team captain, winning All-Pac-10 honors, and becoming a finalist for the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter. But there was one achievement as sweet as any.

“After my [second season], I was put on scholarship,” Forrest said. “To make that phone call to my parents, you can’t even put it into words … I wasn’t even supposed to be there, but the dream happened.”

Forrest concentrated on the NFL after WSU. Being an undrafted free agent, he signed with the Buffalo Bills and was cut a week before the regular season began, losing against the starting punter in what amounted to a meaningless “competition” match. His phone did not ring once more.

After experiencing a bit of a post-football identity crisis and realizing he was unemployed, Forrest returned to Eastern Washington in search of his next adventure.

“I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew that I was going to be successful,” Forrest said. “That’s what I learned from punting, I went from knowing nothing, to almost making a career out of it.”

 

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