Photo courtesy of Rick Edelman/Rick Edelman Photography                                Eastside Catholic Crusaders safety Malik Putney, right, makes a tackle against the O’Dea Fighting Irish in a contest earlier this season.

Photo courtesy of Rick Edelman/Rick Edelman Photography Eastside Catholic Crusaders safety Malik Putney, right, makes a tackle against the O’Dea Fighting Irish in a contest earlier this season.

Putney patrols the secondary with passion

The last line of defense for the Eastside Catholic Crusaders football team packs a powerful punch.

Crusaders’ senior safety Malik Putney is the heart and soul of a Crusaders defense that has completely throttled opponents since the second week of the 2017 season. Putney is fearless in run support and is one of the most formidable hitters I’ve seen all year on the gridiron. Since the summer of 2017, I’ve conducted interviews with Putney on three separate occasions and each time I have encountered the star defensive back, the adjective that comes to mind to describe him consists of just one word, “intensity.”

Putney exudes confidence and command at all times. In my opinion, he is the Crusaders’ version of Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. He just seems to be everywhere between the white lines. While Putney rarely plays on the offensive side of the ball, he also is the Crusaders’ top punt returner and is truly electrifying when the ball gets into his hands.

In the regular season finale against Roosevelt, Putney dropped deep to return punts multiple times but hardly received any opportunities to make a splash in the return game. A multitude of punts sailed out of bounds, leaving Putney visibly frustrated. On one instance, as another punt sailed harmlessly to the sidelines, he extended his arms to his teammates with a look of disgust.

Putney just wanted an opportunity to make plays and help his team win.

The passion and edge Putney brings to the Crusaders is undeniable. I played sports my entire life and I know firsthand having teammates who bring that kind of grit, passion and all-out effort is inspiring. It makes a difference in how teams practice, how they prepare and how they perform when it counts on Friday/Saturday nights. When someone sees a teammate lay everything on the line for the squad, they will do the same for them. That bond creates an unbreakable brotherhood that translates into success. Players don’t want to let their comrades down and will give it absolutely everything they have.

It is one reason why NFL legend Brett Favre is one of my favorite players of all time. Favre wasn’t the best quarterback to play the game (NFL league leader in interceptions) and he surely made his share of crucial mistakes in the playoffs, but his teammates would do anything for him because of the toughness (296 consecutive starts) and intangibles he brought to the field and to the locker room.

The Crusaders are three games away from a state championship. Eastside Catholic won back-to-back state titles in 2014 and 2015 but were eliminated in the Class 3A semifinals in November 2016. During spring practice this past June, Putney shared his goals for the 2017 season.

“We don’t want to feel the same pain as we did last year losing to Kamiakin in the semifinals. I know that my fellow seniors and I want to bring back that state championship our senior year. We want to leave a legacy for the younger guys so they can have something to look forward to and know what hard work and dedication gets you,” Putney said on June 16.

Any team that faces the Crusaders this postseason will undoubtedly have to game-plan for No. 3 (Putney) roaming the secondary. I wouldn’t be surprised if Putney’s aspirations of a state championship for his team come true at the Tacoma Dome on Dec. 1.

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