Cotton signed to Chargers practice squad

In this Nov. 2, 2019 file photo, Idaho receiver Jeff Cotton looks up field for extra yards after grabbing a pass from Mason Petrino during a Big Sky Conference game against Cal Poly at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow.

Record-breaking former University of Idaho receiver Jeff Cotton was among 26 players to be cut by the Los Angeles Chargers when the NFL franchise trimmed its roster to 53 players Saturday. He was signed to the Los Angeles Chargers practice squad Sunday.

Cotton, who caught 137 passes for 1,797 yards and 14 touchdowns in 21 games as a Vandal between 2018-19, was with L.A. on an undrafted free-agent deal.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder out of Tucson, Ariz., was picked up by the Chargers about an hour after this year’s NFL draft ended. Considered by many media members to be one of the Big Sky Conference and UI’s top NFL prospects in recent years, Cotton landed in Chargers camp despite the coronavirus pandemic prohibiting him in-person workouts with teams — and forcing Cotton to film his combine workouts at a makeshift pro day in Missoula, Mont.

Cotton solidified himself as one of the Football Championship Subdivision’s elite pass-catchers last season, drawing a third-team Associated Press All-America nod after leading the classification with 8.8 receptions per game and finishing second in the FCS with 114.1 yards per contest.

He broke UI’s single-game receptions record in his finale, registering 18 grabs for 230 yards and two scores in a win against Northern Arizona.

Although he missed two full games — and one half in two other contests — with injuries, Cotton still topped the Big Sky with 88 receptions.

Older UI products who made 53-man NFL rosters include: journeyman defensive end Benson Mayowa and first-round guard Mike Iupati (Seattle), versatile linebacker Kaden Elliss (New Orleans), Asotin-bred offensive tackle Jesse Davis (Miami) and hard-nosed fullback/special teams mainstay Elijhaa Penny (New York Giants).

UI trainer continues to be lauded for work

University of Idaho head athletic trainer Chris Walsh recently was named Mueller Sports Medicine’s national Athletic Trainer of the Week for the last week of August.

Walsh, who began his time at UI as a graduate assistant in 2014, has been commended by Vandals personnel for providing guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring any athletic activities be conducted safely and, ultimately, limiting the spread of the disease among athletes.

“This guy should be trainer of the year for what he’s done for our department during this pandemic!” UI men’s golf coach David Nuhn posted to Twitter.

“A lot has been thrown his way, but he’s handled it with class and unparalleled smarts,” added men’s basketball assistant Kenny Tripp in a tweet. “For that we are thankful!”

The native of Renton, Wash., served eight years of active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard from 2003-11. He finished his military career in Mobile, Ala., where he completed a bachelor’s in athletic training in 2014 at the University of Mobile.

Walsh currently serves as the co-chair of the Big Sky Conference’s health and safety committee, which provided some of the feedback that resulted in the league moving its fall seasons to the spring to preserve student-athletes’ safety.

UI athletic director Terry Gawlik and football coach Paul Petrino during interviews have highlighted Walsh specifically for putting in the extra time in monitoring training sessions and athletes, many of whom expressed their gratitude on Twitter in recent days.

“He’s helped me during one of the hardest times of life, helped me with mental and physical health!” UI football long snapper Cameron Lang tweeted. “This guy is a great person, he’s the real deal!”

“So deserved,” former standout UI women’s basketball guard Lizzy Klinker said on Twitter.“This man goes above and beyond for his athletes! So blessed I was able to work with Chris!!”

UI promotes Tracy

Idaho’s football team promoted former graduate assistant Pryce Tracy to running backs coach this summer, according to the bio on Tracy’s Twitter page.

Tracy, who served as an offensive assistant last year, has contributed to the success of four different football teams since 2009. The Indiana University graduate coached at Clay (Ind.) High School from 2009-11, then was a recruiting specialist at Alabama from 2011-12 before five years at Notre Dame in a few different roles — including as a quarterback-focused offensive analyst and a special teams analyst.

Tracy was Arkansas Tech’s quarterbacks coach/recruiting coordinator during the 2018 season.

At UI, he’ll be responsible for recruiting Arizona and Texas, a duty formerly held by previous tight ends coach Steve Oliver, who now is at the University of San Diego. Based on his Twitter traffic, Tracy has been busy. He’s reeled in a couple of Texas commits, and has multiple early offers out for 2022 Arizonans.

It’s not yet certain if former running backs coach Brian Reader will take on another capacity, or remain only as the Vandals’ recruiting coordinator.

Colton Clark may be reached at cclark@lmtribune.com, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 848-2260.

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