SEATTLE — Head down, still in uniform after the Apple Cup loss to Washington, Washington State's Steve Broussard walked into the interview room to discuss the game and, perhaps to talk about the heavy heart he brought into it.
At the team breakfast that morning Broussard told his coaches that his sister had died and he wasn't sure he would be ready to play.
Now this uncomfortably crowded room was the last place he wanted to be after a difficult 20-9 loss and a confusing, emotional day.
Before Broussard entered, coach Mike Price and other WSU assistant coaches confirmed that, before pregame warm-ups, they weren't certain their star tailback would play. They believed he was telling the truth when he told them his sister had died.
After the game, in which he had played like the first-round draft pick he would become, Broussard still was wearing an armband with the message, “RIP SIS,” written in magic marker. His voice was soft, barely above a whisper. He didn't want to talk about his day.
His answers were vague. But we pushed him into telling us things that just weren't true.
As the football fairy tale of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and the “death” of his nonexistent girlfriend began to unspool, I was, um, reminded by readers last week of the column I wrote about Broussard after the 1989 Apple Cup.
I was assigned the Cougars' locker room after the Apple Cup. I interviewed Broussard, his coaches and teammates, then wrote about his difficult day.
A few hours later, I took a redeye flight across country for a Sunday Seahawks game. When I got to my hotel in the Meadowlands, the red message light on my phone was blinking. My sports editor's voice told me that Broussard's sister was alive and well.
There are a few similarities and a lot of differences between the two hoaxes.
Unlike Te'o, Broussard didn't want to share his story with us. Whatever was happening to him, he believed, was personal. He asked for privacy that we (I) didn't allow him.
This wasn't some well-conceived hoax. There was nothing malicious about Broussard's story. He wasn't a victim in the way, it appears, Te'o was.