Life-changing moments are easily recalled.
“I still remember when and where I was,” Jeff Tuel said, looking back on his moment.
With his mom outside a Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft store in Fresno, Calif., Tuel, then a student at Clovis West High School, received a call.
“We pulled in to get something and my phone rang,” he said. “Coach (Paul) Wulff offered me a scholarship right there sitting in the car.
“I wanted to play Division 1 football my entire life. It was a dream come true.”
And a dream come true for his mom.
“It was emotional,” Tuel said of his mom’s reaction when she learned her son would be receiving a scholarship.
“To know your school is paid for is such a great feeling,” Tuel said. “A lot of families can’t afford to do that. It is truly a blessing.”
Since that moment, Tuel experienced a career at Washington State that saw its share of highs (2012 Apple Cup) and lows (injuries, including a broken collarbone that forced him to miss most of his junior season), but he has no regrets with his choice.
“Pullman is a great place,” he said. “I met a ton of great people and learned a lot through my playing experiences on the field. You go through ups and downs and they can make or break you.
“It depends on how you handle what you go through,” Tuel continued. “The adversity I faced is what shaped me more than anything. I like the way I turned out in Pullman.”
Tuel left Pullman to pursue his professional football career nine credits shy of his degree. He found a home in the NFL at Buffalo, signing as a free agent with the Bills.
At WSU, Tuel was only the second Cougar to start a game as a true freshman (Drew Bledsoe). With Buffalo, Tuel nearly became the first undrafted quarterback to start his NFL team’s first regular-season game.
As he prepared to start for the Bills, Tuel found the experience much different than when he was a college freshman.
“My freshman year, I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I was a true freshman playing guys who were 21 years old. It was a little shocking.
“I was ready to start week one,” Tuel said of the move to the NFL. “I matured so much as a person mentally and physically. I felt really good about it.”
Though he did not start the season-opening game, Tuel did make a start against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 9. He played in two games during the 2013 season, completing 26 of 59 attempts for 309 yards.
With a season of NFL experience under his belt, Tuel still had unfinished business to attend to in Pullman.
So after the NFL season he returned to WSU to complete his degree requirements.
“One, I promised my mom I will do it,” Tuel explained of why he came back. “Two, I think it’s stupid if you were to come to college for four years and be three classes short of getting your degree. I figured I would do it now.”
As he completes his academic work, Tuel, who majored in communication with a public relations emphasis and a business minor, has had a chance to reflect on his time at WSU.
And he has a message for Cougar Athletic Fund members.
“All of their support doesn’t go unnoticed by student-athletes,” he said. “At times it may seem that way, whether student-athletes aren’t reaching out as much or saying thank you. Kids know they wouldn’t be here without Cougar Athletic Fund members.”
And he has a message to those who are not yet members of the Cougar Athletic Fund.
“You can change a kid’s life.”