Mike Utley, a guard who earned consensus All-America honors while playing for Washington State (1985-88) University, Friday was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, only the fourth WSU player so honored. Utley in 1988 helped lead the Cougars to their best record in 58 years and first postseason win (Aloha Bowl) since 1916.
Utley was a three-time All-Pac-10 pick who started a then school-record 43 consecutive games. He played in the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game and was selected in the third round of the 1989 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.
“This is very overwhelming,” said Utley. “Washington State University and head coach Jim Walden gave me an opportunity and I told him I would give 100 percent of myself. Playing for the Cougars was a wonderful experience. At the end of the day I hope I represented Washington State University in a manner my parents would be proud, and I believe I have,” said Utley.
“I speak for Cougars everywhere when I say how proud we are of Mike receiving this prestigious and well-deserved honor,” said WSU athletic director Bill Moos. “He was a dominating player and truly one of the best to ever play the game. “
Utley is the first Cougar player inducted into the Hall of Fame since running back Rueben Mayes in 2008. Additional Cougar players in the College Hall of Fame include tackle Glen “Turk” Edwards (1929-31), enshrined in 1975, and center Mel Hein (1928-30), the first Cougar to be inducted in 1954.
He also joins head coaches Orin “Babe” Hollingbery (1979), Forest “Evy” Evashevski (2000) and William “Lone Star” Dietz (2012), giving WSU seven individuals in the Hall of Fame. Hollingbery coached WSU from 1926-42, Evashevski from 1950-51 and Dietz from 1915-17.
Utley played three seasons in the NFL before suffering spinal cord injuries during a game that paralyzed him from the chest and elbows down. After years of rehab, Utley regained the use of his shoulders, arms and hands and partial use of his legs. The Lions renamed their Spirit Award the Mike Utley Spirit Award.
Utley received the Walter Camp Man of the Year Award in 2006 and the WSU Alumni Achievement Award in 2007. Washington State inducted him into its athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.
Since his paralysis, Utley has won dozens of awards for community service and his work with those who have spinal cord injuries. He established the Mike Utley Foundation in 1992, which provides research, rehab and education to those living with spinal cord injuries.
Utley provides three scholarships for patients at the Detroit Medical Center’s Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, established the Mike Utley Center for Human Performance in Detroit, the Mike Utley Terrain Park in Englewood, CO., and the Mike Utley Terrain Training Course in Atlanta.
“My fondest memory of Washington State, and it was two different occasions, was the first time I ran out of the tunnel, in uniform, into Martin Stadium, and the last time I ran through the tunnel into Martin Stadium,” said Utley. “That was always a special feeling but those two times continue to mean a lot to me.”
Utley is joined in the 2016 Hall of Fame Class by quarterback Marlin Briscoe (Nebraska Omaha, 1964-67), linebacker Derrick Brooks (Florida State, 1991-94), linebacker Tom Cousineau (Ohio State, 1975-78), quarterback/punter Randall Cunningham (UNLV, 1982-84), tailback Troy Davis (Iowa State, 1994-96), defensive tackle William Fuller (North Carolina, 1981-83), quarterback Bert Jones (LSU, 1970-72), defensive lineman Tim Krumrie (Wisconsin, 1979-82), tight end Pat McInally (Harvard, 1972-74), defensive end Herb Orvis (Colorado, 1969-71), linebacker Bill Royce (Ohio, 1990-93), defensive back Scott Woerner (Georgia, 1977-80) and defensive back Rod Woodson (Purdue, 1983-86).