WSU saw the USS America last year. This year, the Cougars got a tour of an amphibious assault ship, the USS Essex
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The burly helicopter pilot dressed in Navy fatigues looked big enough to have been a football player himself as he gathered the Washington State players around him on the well deck on the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship docked at the San Diego Naval Station.
And indeed, Lt. Paul Bridgers could identify with the Cougars’ players from the standpoint of a former NCAA football player.
“This is kinda cool for me because I was in you guys’ shoes 13 years ago, with Navy,” Bridgers told the Cougars at the start of their tour of the USS Essex. “I came to San Diego for two different Poinsettia Bowls and did this – walked around an LHD and got to see it. So it’s totally flipped.”
Bridgers, a native of Gaithersburg, Md., played offensive tackle for Navy under former head coach Paul Johnson from 2004-07 and graduated with the class of 2008. Since then, he’s become a helicopter pilot stationed on the Essex, flying the MH-60R Seahawk.
As Bridgers led the Cougars around the ship as part of their tour arranged by the Holiday Bowl, his football background gave him a unique standpoint from which to answer their questions.
“Is it pretty tight in the helicopter you fly?” WSU right tackle Cole Madison asked Bridgers.
“I actually fit pretty good,” said Bridgers, whose Navy football profile from 2007 lists him at 6-foot-3, 268 pounds. “That’s why I fly helicopters. Planes are a little small.”
Even though this was the second year in a row WSU toured a U.S. Navy ship as part of Holiday Bowl activities, the Cougars got to see a different ship after exploring the USS America last year.
“Last year was really windy, you had to hold yourself up from the wind,” said safety Hunter Dale, whose uncle…