Boise State football coach Chris Petersen, offensive line coach Chris Strausser and defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski came to the same conclusion when Matt Paradis joined the team as a defensive lineman three and a half years ago.
He was playing the wrong position.
I definitely had my eyes on him early on, Strausser said.
The problem: Paradis thought he belonged on the defensive line.
He played both positions at Council High, where he was the 1A All-Idaho Player of the Year in 2007, and was named the Broncos Defensive Scout Player of the Year as a true freshman in 2009.
He experimented on the offensive line in spring 2010, but still believed he could make an impact on defense. A few months later, in fall camp, he made the move full time.
I wish I would have flipped the switch earlier, he said.
Paradis, now a junior, enters the 2012 season as the Broncos starting center.
The former walk-on has used the work ethic and toughness he learned working on his parents cattle ranch, plus the smarts and leadership skills required at center, to develop into one of the teams most promising offensive linemen.
His missing ingredient on defense: explosiveness.
You could tell he was a hard-working, tough guy and was pretty athletic, but we could see he was best-suited for the offensive side of the ball, Petersen said. We had seen that for a while, and it took him a while to come around. And when he did, we werent surprised it worked out for him.
Paradis, who earned a scholarship and started one game last year, steps into the starting lineup in place of Cory Yriarte, who sustained a career-ending knee injury in summer conditioning.
Paradis felt badly for his teammate, but says he always prepared like he was going to play this season and is ready for the challenge.
I have to take advantage of everything that I can, he said.
His goal: Continually get better. Improve all year. Stay healthy. And be a leader on the O-line and the team.
Paradis once was a long shot just to make the roster at Boise State.
He dominated at the 1A level, where he played three seasons of varsity football, but those teams rarely send anyone to Boise State. He also tore an anterior cruciate ligament during his senior season of high school.
In a scene that epitomized his toughness, he returned to the field a few weeks later for the playoffs wearing a brace delaying surgery until after the season.
He sat out the 2008 season and joined the Broncos as a grayshirt in January 2009.
Originally, I didnt even think I had a shot to play college football because no one does it from a small school, Paradis said. When (then-offensive coordinator Bryan) Harsin told me, All right, weve got a spot for you to grayshirt, I didnt believe him. I thought he was joking. It took two weeks for it to set in.
Much of his success on the football field traces back to his upbringing on the cattle ranch. The lessons he learned there are the same ones required to thrive in the Broncos program.
Hard work the importance of hard work and how to work hard, he said. And how rewarding it can be.
He developed his most imposing physical characteristic there, too.
He has massive hands he wears 3XL gloves and figures he probably could wear 4XL. Those hands are a hot topic with any teammate asked about Paradis ability.
Defensive tackle Mike Atkinson called them death hands. Offensive guard Joe Kellogg called them bear claws.
Both say its nearly impossible to get free of their grasp.
Hes improved tremendously the past year and a half, Atkinson said. He started out as a D-lineman but has become one of the best centers weve had. Hes really taken (the position) to heart and he learns quickly.
Paradis smiles at the comments about his hands.
They say its because my hands are big, he said. I think its more because I have good placement with my hands. I know how to use them.
Paradis does a great job using his hands, Strausser said. But he also finishes blocks, provides leadership and carries a strong understanding of the offensive scheme.
That combination made Paradis the Broncos most consistent blocker in fall camp, Strausser said.
It also has generated a buzz about what Paradis might do with his starting opportunity.
Hell continue to improve, Petersen said, but I think hes a good player and hes a great guy as well, so everybody really likes him. Hes a guy you really want to root for.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat