WALLA WALLA — Even with nagging sore knees Gary Winston can jump out of the gym.
And he knows it, so it doesn’t matter any more if he didn’t grow up to be between 6-foot-4 and 6-6 like he wanted to when he was just a little tyke.
"I’ve been described at anywhere from 5-10 to 6-1 or 6-2," Winston said, with an easy-going smile. "I wish that I was 6-foot-1, but I’m only about 5-11 and three-quarters (and 190 pounds). I’m about 6-feet and one-half inch with my shoes on.
"I’m happy with the height," he said. "If I could choose, I would be about 6-4 or 6-3, but I can jump with the bigger guys.
"So, it doesn’t really matter any more, but when I was little, 6-4 to 6-6 was what I was hoping for, but it just didn’t happen," he said.
Many good things did happen, however.
For one thing, Winston plans to attend the University of Idaho next fall on a basketball scholarship as promised.
He wants to squelch rumors to the contrary once and for all.
"I’ve heard all kinds of rumors that I’ve ‘de-committed’ at Idaho, or whatever," he said. "I even went on the Internet and found an article that called me an ex-Vandal."
Winston has, of course, heard from many schools.
"I guess I could have chosen a couple of bigger schools maybe to go to, but it just felt right at Idaho. It’s a sweet place," he said.
"They’re predicted to finish second in their league next year," he continued. "I love coach (Don) Verlin. He knows what he’s doing. He came from Utah State, and they’re picked to win the Western Athletic Conference every year.
"And he likes guards. Guards kind of run (his system) up there, and it’s a perfect fit for me," Winston said. "Basketball is still my favorite sport.
"But it feels good to be out for football," he added. "I had a few things going on. My situation wasn’t quite clear. What if I got hurt? So I just made a call and the coach said it was cool and not to worry about it unless it was a career-ending injury."
Winston realized how much he missed football when Wa-Hi lost its opener to Hermiston, 27-23.
He called the coaches at Idaho, got assurances that he could play, and came out the next week.
He missed two more games a 37-7 loss to Eisenhower and a 35-0 win at Eastmont while getting in the required number of practices.
He opened against Hanford, a 40-0 Wa-Hi win. In the first quarter, he touched the ball four times and scored three touchdowns.
In last week’s 34-7 win at West Valley, he carried the ball twice for 77 yards and a touchdown.
For a young athlete who can jump out of the basketball gym and can leave opponents in his wake on the football field, it’s unexpected to see him nursing sore knees on the sidelines during football practice.
Yet, there he stood on Wednesday, his helmet dangling from his right hand by the face guard.
"I was diagnosed with arthritis in my joints when I was about five years old," Winston said. "I remember playing outside with a friend. We were playing football. He didn’t know I had it, and I told him I had to go home and I would come right back. But I was tired. I went home and sat on the couch because I couldn’t walk any more."
"My dad used to carry me around when I was little, because I couldn’t walk," Winston said.
Now Winston receives shots and takes medication to control the ailment.
"It’s under control, but I woke up (Wednesday) morning and my knees were just killing me," he said. "I felt like I was little again. It’s like when you get a really bad headache, and you can feel your heart beating kind of thing.
"That’s how my knees are," Winston said. "And it hurts just to walk.
"I hope it’s just growing pains," he added with a broad smile. "I hope I’m not through growing."
Winston was born in Bellevue to Gary and Dorothy Winston, and he has a sister, Malynda, who is in the third grade.
"She a dancer, and she changes her sport every day," Gary said. "One day it’s volleyball. The next day it’s soccer or softball."
Winston’s father, now a security guard at Wa-Hi, worked as a professional musician for a time in Hong Kong but returned to Bellevue where Gary was born.
"When I was little my dad tried to teach me the guitar," Gary said. "But my thing was the drums, and I played them for awhile.
"I played in band in sixth grade. But we go to church, and I wanted to play in the church band," he said. "Then as I got older, I didn’t have as much time."
Winston’s taste in music covers a broad spectrum, from the classic Motown sounds of The Temptations to contemporary rap.
"I like The Temptations, because my dad actually played with them for awhile back in Hong Kong," Winston said. "I like The Four Tops and a bunch of the old stuff. I’m not into rock and country, but I like rap. That’s what I listen to usually."
Yet, spare time is rare for Winston these days.
"My spare time kind of depends on what sport I’m in," he said. "During football, I have a job at Albertsons. I go right to work after football practice usually, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. on week nights. On the weekends it’s usually an eight-hour shift Saturday and Sunday.
"I have a girlfriend who lives in Richland, and I hang out with her," he said.
And he looks forward to Friday night.
"Kamiakin could be tough," Winston said. "It’s always fun to play them. They’re my favorite team to play besides Richland. Lampson Stadium is my favorite place (on the road) to play, along with other players on the team. It’s always a good game. They’ve got us the last two times. So, it’s our time."
Blue Devils prep for Braves sans Arias
WALLA WALLA — Wa-Hi will miss Colton Arias on the field at Lampson Stadium against Kamiakin Friday night.
Arias, out with a leg injury, has caught 20 passes for 273 yards and four touchdowns.
He may be missed even more in the defensive secondary, however, since the Braves lead the Big Nine Conference in passing with 1,098 yards.
Arias, a speedy 6-foot-3 defensive back, has two interceptions, one that he returned for a touchdown.
"This would be a week for us to have Arias in the secondary ... and on offense," Wa-Hi coach Marc Yonts said. "It would be nice to have him, but the other guys are going to step up.
"Aaron Flippo played corner last week and he played great," Yonts said. "He plays the ball real well."
Flippo broke up several passes and made several open-field tackles to the delight of chilled Wa-Hi fans during the Blue Devils’ 34-7 win at West Valley last week.
Wa-Hi has now won three games in a row and takes a 3-1 Big Nine Cascade Division record into Friday’s 7:30 p.m. game.
Kamiakin also owns a 3-1 division record after a 37-27 loss to Eisenhower last week.
"We feel good about the wins," Yonts said. "But the other thing is, we’ve just had a great couple of days practice here. The kids have a bounce in their step. They’re flying around, and they’re picking things up quick. They’re excited to play Kamiakin.
"It’s a nice match-up for us to go play a good team on the road," Yonts continued. "Last week we played a team that wanted to slug it out a little bit. Now we go play Kamiakin, a team that’s wide open. That’s exciting.
"They have a good passing game, and that’s a challenge for us," he said.
The Braves’ Corey Hutchinson leads the Big Nine in passing (75-for-145, 1,048 yards, six touchdowns with four interceptions.
Kamiakin’s Tim White leads the league’s receivers (41 catches for 635 yards, five TDs). White also leads the league in punt returns (13-203).
Wa-Hi counters with QB Michael Weisner (52-92, 772 yards, 8 TDs and two interceptions.
Nick Zollman will fill in for Arias at wide receiver, along with Gary Winston.
Austin Schilling leads Wa-Hi’s running game with 84 carries, 541 yards, 5 TDS.
"It’s interesting," Yonts said. "Hutchinson is mobile, but he’s not a guy that’s going to pull it down and run. Yet, he has an arm that you just don’t see often. He barely shifts his weight and throws 50 yards on a line.
"So he has a great arm and they have a bunch of skill kids, and the (Dom) Davis kid in the backfield is the one that shredded us last year," Yonts said.
"So they present problems. They have a good running back and a quarterback that throws it all over the yard," Yonts said.
"We’ve got to defend a little longer," he added. "We’ve got to try and get a little more pressure.
"Their offensive line protects very well," Yonts said. "Hutchinson hasn’t been knocked down much."
On the injury front, Wa-Hi’s 2008 Big Nine Lineman of the Year, Zach Summerlin, will return Friday after being out with a leg injury.
"Zach has been practicing all week," Yonts said. "He’s been able to scrimmage, and he looks good. He may go primarily on offense, however.
"We’ve had a great week of preparation on both sides of the ball," Yonts said. "Friday will be a great night of football.
"We’ll be OK."