PULLMAN – Somewhere in an alternate universe, Stanford’s promising young halfback Max Borghi busts out his calculus homework just in time for football practice in Palo Alto, California.
But not this one.
The uniforms may look comparable to the untrained eye, but the roaring Cougar head pasted on the side of his helmet grounds us in objective reality. Max is a Washington State Cougar.
While WSU was not the first dog to the bowl – Max initially committed to the University of Colorado – the Cougs did out pace Stanford by a healthy margin.
By Jay Madden’s estimation – Max’s former coach at Pomona High School – the highly touted back was committed to WSU for over three months once Stanford entered the picture.
“I mean, it’s Stanford,” Madden said. “He had a million people in his ear saying, ‘you owe it to yourself to make a decision you’re happy with.'”
And Max, a straight-A student, did just that. Balking a handful of days amid the early signing period, the Colorado native left Cougs on edge.
A man of his word, Max was up front and honest with Washington State amid the recruiting process. No secrets were kept. The Cougs were well aware their prized recruit was in contact with the Cardinal.
And though WSU recruiters and staff were “bummed”, they handled the situation with true class. According to Madden, their reaction indirectly showed Max what kind of atmosphere and culture surrounded the WSU family.
Max, just a senior in high school, was caught in the middle of a zero-sum game. He was torn. But alas, a decision was made.
In an extreme rarity, Washington State beat out the Cardinal for a premier recruit. While the late Stanford surge was understandably intriguing, it was not enough to lure the versatile back away from the crimson and gray.
The genuine relationships Max built with the Cougar coaching staff, particularly running backs coach Jim Mastro, ultimately tipped the scale in Pullman’s favor according to Madden.
Unfortunately for the young star, he quickly learned loyalty in the business of sports parallels myth.
“[Jim Mastro] was my recruiter, and then soon as I got here he went to Oregon,” Max told the press following WSU’s 34-20 statement win over the Ducks. “It was personal for all of us running backs.”
After taking 17 touches – 7 by air – for 91 yards and a score, no doubt was left as to whether the 5-foot-10 all-purpose back efficiently channeled his emotion.
Likewise, expect all 195 pounds to show up big Saturday on The Farm. Averaging 5.5 yards per carry on the year, the freshman topples over defenders like a steaming boulder rolling downhill.
“He’s the best skill player I’ve ever coached,” Madden said. “Everyone here compares him to Christian McCaffrey. I’m watching a high school game right now on TV and they’re talking about Max.”
Though the fairytale ending of Borghi and Mastro hoisting a Pac-12 championship side-by-side is lost, the trajectory of Cougar football remains true with Max unequivocally playing an integral role.
“Cougar nation is awesome. You can’t even put it into words how much love they have for Cougar football,” Max said.
For a guy who appears to have it all made, one would expect the young star to don an inflated ego, but that couldn’t be further from reality. In fact, the former Pomona star texts Madden’s 12-year-old son daily.
“He’s humble, loves to compete and always plays his best when it’s needed. That’s the kind of guy you want on your team,” Madden said.
The coach continued to add Max could stand alongside Carolina Panther Christian McCaffrey as the two best skill players to come out of Colorado in the past two decades.
“Max always takes care of business. It’s who he is. He always gets his stuff done on time as good as he can do it,” Madden concluded.
With both WSU and Stanford tugging for an edge in the Pac-12 North, expect to hear true freshman Max Borghi over the public address Saturday before it’s all said and done.
No. 14 Washington State (6-1, 3-1) at No. 24 Stanford (5-2, 3-1) kicks off Saturday at 4 p.m. Live coverage of the action can be found on the Pac-12 Network.