Commentary: Gardner Minshew has brought a much-needed happiness back to WSU

We start with a smile: Something so simple we often take it for granted, yet so meaningful when it comes to that of Gardner Minshew in Pullman this season.

Because Minshew – along with that smile (and that mustache) - has helped bring a much-needed happiness back to the Palouse.

The Cougs are now 9-1, and along with the Huskies, still control their own destiny in the Pac-12 North. But more importantly, there’s a joy within a community that was desperate for optimism for much of this year.

The shocking suicide of Tyler Hilinski in January was devastating. And while I’m an outsider who admittedly knows very little about the Washington State family or what it means to be a Coug, I still saw the impact it had on the entire community. I saw the outpouring of support. I’ve seen the efforts to raise money for Hilinski’s Hope and mental health awareness, and I saw the heartfelt dedication to the late quarterback during a flag-raising ceremony before the Cougs home opener.

But to follow it up with the unexpected success in a season clearly dedicated to Hilinski? To follow it up with memorable moments like the first-ever College Gameday in Pullman? To follow it up with a big win over Oregon and to see the jubilation amongst the crowd rushing the field? To see Minshew celebrating with fans and soaking it all in? And to continue that success all the way to a No. 8 national ranking with just two games left in the regular season?

That’s special. That’s something you only see in sports.

This team is having fun again – and Minshew is a major reason why.

Gardner Minshew came to Pullman when the Cougs needed him most. Someone who was separated enough from the tragedy to be able to bring the fun back with his unique style, with his infectious smile, without being disrespectful to the process of mourning one of their own.

Frankly, this team is still playing for Tyler, while rallying behind Gardner.

And while the next two weeks including Apple Cup loom incredibly large, you can’t take away what Minshew’s success – and charisma – has meant to those around him.

Maybe it should be a thing: Aviator glasses for all Coug fans going forward – to reflect the spirit of both quarterbacks: the one whose smile continues to shine bright, and the one whose spirit continues to beam down on them everyday.