Riley Nelson has a dream gig: BYU quarterback.
It just wasnt his dream.
Nelson, who has extensive ties to Utah State, began his college career by carrying on the family tradition with the Aggies.
And while he possesses the skills of a quarterback, he has the heart and personality of a running back the position his grandfather and father played at Utah State.
It was never my intention to (play quarterback), he said. When I did start playing quarterback, all I knew how to do was run.
Nelson will bring his unique combination of passing touch, aggressive running, fiery leadership and clutch playmaking to Bronco Stadium on Thursday night, when BYU will try to upset No. 24 Boise State.
Hes been here before as a true freshman in 2006, starting for a woefully outmanned Utah State team that lost 49-10.
Hes a tough, hard-nosed player, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. He kind of seems like a defensive player playing offense.
Nelson (6-foot, 199 pounds), a senior, gets help from true freshman quarterback Taysom Hill (6-2, 218) a returned missionary from Highland High in Pocatello.
Hill runs a wildcat package. He has rushed nine times for 41 yards and two touchdowns and completed 2-of-4 passes for 36 yards and a TD.
The reason Hill enters?
About 2 more inches and 30 more pounds, Nelson said. And probably I wont give him a full tenth on the (40-yard dash), but Ill give him half a tenth.
Hes a physical freak. The guy is one of our best lifters and runners and is a great athlete. I know Idahoans, like Utahns, they pride themselves on their work ethic. Taysom definitely is not scared to put in work. Hes kind of endeared himself to the team in that manner.
Hill, the Idaho Statesmans 2008 All-Idaho 5A Player of the Year, signed with Stanford as a high school senior. Boise State recruited him, but Petersen said the Broncos didnt have a chance.
Hill served a two-year church mission in Australia, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers and Hill decided hed rather play at BYU. One reason: BYU would allow him to enroll in January, while Stanford couldnt take him until summer.
His early arrival likely helped him get on the field this year. Senior James Lark is listed as the backup quarterback, but Hill said that spot isnt defined.
For now, hes happy to contribute.
Weve been able to execute that (wildcat package) and it will continue to grow as we continue to make plays out of that, said Hill, the only Idahoan on BYUs roster. It has been so much fun to be a part of football and be a part of college football, which I had never had a chance to be a part of.
Unlike Hill, Nelson spent one season at Utah State before going on his mission. He planned to redshirt in 2006 but was forced into the starting lineup by the ineffectiveness of Leon Jackson.
He showed his penchant for comebacks by leading the Aggies to a final-minute touchdown in a stunning upset of Fresno State but generated just 85 yards of total offense against Boise States first Fiesta Bowl team at Bronco Stadium.
He went to Spain on his mission, as planned, and decided to trade the family blue for Cougar blue.
Its hard to pinpoint one reason, he said. A lot of the reasons for me making that decision were personal ones. Utah States a great program right now. At the time I was making that decision, their program wasnt in the state it is right now and BYU was coming off back-to-back 11-2 seasons. The opportunity to come in and compete and win a job was very intriguing for a competitor like me.
He arrived at BYU in 2009, won the starting job in 2010 before a season-ending shoulder injury limited him to three games and began 2011 as a backup.
He was so eager to play last season that he inserted himself into the special teams units at practice and was allowed to start as a gunner on the punt team. He was on the two-deep on kickoff and punt return.
That was just a matter of wanting to be on the field, wanting to help my team win and not wanting to waste my eligibility holding a clipboard, he said. I absolutely loved it. Its all the purest forms of athleticism.
He became the starting quarterback in the sixth game of the season and went 6-1, with a solid quarterback rating and 392 rushing yards. He tossed game-winning touchdown passes while trailing in the final minute against Utah State and Tulsa (in the bowl game).
He nearly engineered another wacky comeback Saturday, completing a 47-yard pass to set up a potential game-tying field goal at Utah. The kick hit the uprights.
Nelson says the final-drive dramatics are worse on his mom than on him, but they reflect his never-quit attitude.
Theres a saying I like that we use a lot around here: You think training is hard? Try losing, Nelson said. Its just a disgust or just distaste I have for losing. I want to do everything I can do to put ourselves in a chance to win. That doesnt always happen for me in quarters one through three.
Said Hill: Because of that spirit he brings to the offense, it motivates everybody else in the huddle.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat