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Originally published Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 5:09 PM

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Western Washington transfer Casey Hamlett feeling at home with Cougars

Defensive end didn't want his football career to be over when Western killed its program.

Seattle Times staff reporter

PULLMAN — Cynics might say this is more about Washington State than it is about Casey Hamlett. Surely your average high-level college football program couldn't shake loose serious playing time for somebody immediately transferring from NCAA Division II.

Whatever. Hamlett will let those folks debate while he pursues the back half of his college career and a story that seems pointed toward a happy ending.

The other day at WSU's first major scrimmage, Hamlett had a solid afternoon from his defensive-end position, including a sack. He should soon have more reward for his labors.

"In terms of a scholarship," said coach Paul Wulff, "if he keeps doing what he's doing, it won't be long."

Nor has it been long since a January morning on campus at Western Washington University when the rumors began swirling. By afternoon, the Vikings were massed in what Hamlett called an "emergency" team meeting, hearing from the school president that WWU was ending the program.

An assistant coach told Hamlett what the sophomore end was already thinking: "You need to continue playing football."

Says Hamlett, "When I thought about it, it's not even a decision. There's no way I'm going to end my football career right now."

WSU assistant Malik Roberson had a contact on the Western staff, and by the second week of spring semester, Hamlett was in Pullman.

Robin Ross, the former coach at Western who is now on Oregon State's staff, provided a scouting report on Hamlett: Smart, tough and competitive.

"He had almost a 4.0 coming out of high school [at Edmonds-Woodway]," Ross says. "We started him at tight end, then had some problems on the defensive line. I thought he was going to be a D-tackle, but he kept his weight down.

"He'd be one of those that, if he had a bad practice, he'd be out there by himself, running."

At Western, Hamlett was on a 60 percent scholarship. He could have just stayed but is happy he took the riskier road out, and fast.

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"I didn't want to spend the whole quarter at Western, thinking about it," he says. "I wanted to get off on the right foot quickly."

He had initial trepidation about whether his strength and ability belonged, but not for long. Hamlett already figures in WSU's defensive-end rotation.

Referring to the extensive experience at Western, including starting as a sophomore, he says, "I think of it like a JC that I went to that happened to close down, instead of me transferring out."

Meanwhile, he keeps getting signs that WSU is the place, from the lack of depth that beckoned him on the defensive line, to the fact three old high-school buddies just happened to have a vacancy in their house.

"Maybe this is for a reason," he says. "It's been good so far."

It will get better on Sept. 5, when Hamlett, who had never been in Martin Stadium before transferring, will play against Stanford.

"There'll probably be more people here on the fifth than in all my games combined at Western last year," Hamlett says. "Probably double that. Triple, maybe. I just can't wait."

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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