Three worlds collided in the summer of 2000, and rather quickly, an unexpected and now unbreakable bond was formed.
For Michael Roos, Paul Terrell and Jeff Christiansen, a union that started on the practice field and locker room of the Eastern Washington University football team blossomed into much, much more than the trio expected.
The former Eagles offensive linemen have become inseparable as they morphed into roommates, All-Big Sky Conference performers, college graduates, husbands, fathers and lately, golfing buddies and world travelers together. And don’t forget the whiskey, cigars, music and fishing, as well as their basketball feats under the pseudonym “Cooked as a Goat.”
They weren’t born as blood brothers, but they are the closest thing to it now.
“We definitely have a different kind of bond,” Roos said. “It’s hard to describe.”
“It’s interesting how those bonds were formed over five years at Eastern, and have survived through the growth of families, kids, moves, jobs and all of those transitions in life,” Terrell said. “We’ve been able to maintain a really close friendship with one another, and that is pretty cool.”
“I’m very close to my family, but Mike and Paul have become brothers to me,” Christiansen said. “Our friendship over the years has really developed into a brotherhood.”
Roos is the best known of the three, having spent 10 seasons in the National Football League with the Tennessee Titans after a stellar career as an offensive tackle for the Eagles. Three times he earned All-Big Sky Conference accolades, and was an All-American in 2004 as he started his last 35 games as an Eagle at left tackle. And, oh yes, the field the Eagles play on is named in his honor.
Terrell and Christiansen had their own success stories. Terrell earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors as a senior offensive tackle in 2004, and four times he was a member of the conference’s all-academic squad. Christiansen was a second-team All-Big Sky performer at guard in 2003.
“We can laugh and tell stories for hours,” said Terrell, a graphic artist with multiple EWU degrees in graphic communication and multimedia programming through the computer science department. “It’s easy conversation and a lot of banter.”
“Would I have guessed that 22 years later we’d be hanging out on a weekly basis, or try to?” Terrell asked. “Probably not, but I’ve been grateful for it.”
As preseason training camp got underway in August 2000 at EWU, the Eagles had a new head coach in Paul Wulff and a new offensive line coach in Aaron Best, who was played center for the Eagles from 1996-1999.
It wasn’t until 2002 when the trio all played together on the offensive line for Best. Roos and Terrell were originally tight ends, and Roos spent the 2001 season on the defensive line. The experience playing other positions helped them greatly as their careers unfolded.
As seniors in 2004, they helped lead Eastern to the Big Sky Conference title and advance to the playoff quarterfinals in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then known as I-AA) Playoffs. It was EWU’s first title and playoff berth in seven seasons, and that 9-4 squad started a string of success that has only grown through the years.
Off the field, their relationships grew as well, and that translated to the football field. Eventually, the trio became roommates.
“It all happened so organically and naturally,” Christiansen said. “We were always around each other and it grew from there. That’s when we started to live together, and even after college we stayed close.”
While they were Eastern students, all three also met their future wives. Christiansen was first, meeting Jeni the first day of classes in his freshman year. Roos then met Katherine, who was an EWU tennis player. Finally, as he was finishing up his second degree and working at The Creek at Qualchan Golf Course, Terrell met Tessa.
Terrell and Christiansen were both on hand at a NFL draft party in spring 2005 when Roos was taken in the second round by the Titans (41st pick overall). Roos went on to earn All-Pro accolades in 2008, 2010 and 2011, and in his last 13 seasons as a football player he started all 226 games he played.
“If anything, our relationships got stronger,” Roos said of his time with the Titans. “I missed the guys and wanted to come back to games and hang out in the off-season. The three of us and our wives realized that there was something more to it than just being a former teammate. We spent a lot of time together and had a lot of shared experiences.”
While Roos played for Tennessee, Terrell and Christiansen became frequent visitors to Nashville. They would take two or three trips there yearly, at least once annually to catch a Titans game. Sometimes they would attend Roos’ games on the West Coast.
Roos loved returning to Cheney and attending EWU games when he could on the bye week for the Titans. The Michael Roos Foundation also held annual events in the area in the off-season, and he and Kat eventually gave $500,000 toward the red turf project at Eastern’s stadium that bears his name – Roos Field.
More recently, the trio works together at building the Eagle Football Network into a strong organization in support of Eagle Football. Terrell helped form EFN in 2018 to support the past, present and future of EWU football through connection, mentorship and fundraising. Besides financial support, Terrell said they strive to keep past and former players involved and connected.
“It’s been slow to grow, but it’s pretty impactful to connect with out-going seniors,” he said. “We want to help however we can with the transition to post-college life. They are told where to be and when to be there, and after college it can be rather daunting. We want to be a support group to help with things like resume building, mock interviews and connecting them with others in their career field. We want to help them with their future plans and support them through the transition.”
As Roos’ NFL career was winding down, he and Kat organized an off-season trip to Ireland that has become an annual trip for more than a decade. Terrell and Christiansen didn’t go on the first trek, but went on the second and as many as they can since then.
“They all fell in love with the trip and decided to expand it,” Terrell said. “The second year Jeff and I could go, and we try to make it to as many as we can.”
They’ve also been to Scotland together, and on one of the trips to Ireland an extra week in Copenhagen, Denmark, was tacked on.
All three have started families, with Jeff and Jeni the first to have children – they are the parents of son Jack (14), and daughters Mia (12) and Halle (9). A decade later, the Terrell and Roos families followed suit – Paul and Tessa have a daughter named Elliott (3), and Michael and Katherine have a son named Erick (1).
The past two summers, the Roos family has spent their summers in Spokane before returning to their home in Nashville.
“We like being here to enjoy the fresh air some more,” Roos said. “And playing lots of golf.”
In 2018 and 2019, that trio played together in Hoopfest on a team called “Cooked Like a Goat.” They got the name while in a pub in Ireland when they overheard an intoxicated patron say on his phone that he was “cooked as a goat.”
The first year the team also featured former Titans offensive lineman Mike Otto, and combined they totaled 1,150 pounds. They not only raised some eyebrows with their girth, but advanced deep into the final day when they lost to the eventual champions. That came after playing 36 holes of golf the day before the tournament began.
In 2019, they were 1-2 after the first day and were eliminated, with fellow former Eagles offensive lineman Craig Burns replacing Otto on the squad.
The schedule didn’t allow them to compete in this year’s version of Hoopfest.
“We’ll get back together and Cooked Like a Goat will live on,” Terrell said. “It’s a little tough on the bodies, but we still have that competitive spirit to play and want to win.”
But their alma mater is always where their hearts will be, and they have all been involved in philanthropic endeavors on behalf of the school and football program. As a graphic artist, Terrell has received an abundance of projects from the EWU Athletic Department – especially in graphic presentations in team rooms and locker rooms.
“Eagle Football is always a topic of our conversations,” Terrell said. “We’ve all stayed really close with Coach Best, so we have that bond as well. He’s gone to Ireland with us a few times and he has a trust level with us and understands our passions. It’s fun to see him on a personal level, as opposed to just on the field.”
Terrell and his best friends take pride in seeing fellow former Eagles excel at the next level in the NFL or the Canadian Football League. Watching their growth from collegians to professionals was recently punctuated by Cooper Kupp becoming MVP of the Super Bowl and earning a significant bump in pay.
“A lot of the story has to do with the tiny little town of Cheney and a small school not a lot of people know about,” Roos said. “To have players make it in the NFL creates a lot of pride for sure for everybody.”