Brian Murphy: Kids looking for keepsakes, not profit at Boise State jamboree

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comAugust 18, 2013 

College football players signed hundreds of autographs Saturday at Bronco Stadium, and (gasp!) not one item is expected to end up for sale on the Internet.

No one’s eligibility is in question. Not a single dollar changed hands.

Instead, more than 650 young kids got to interact with their favorite college football players, got to play catch on the famous blue turf and got a keepsake that means more than the dollars it could fetch on eBay.

Not that these kids would even dream of selling.

“Put it on a trophy case,” 10-year-old Tanner said of his football signed by various members of the Boise State football team.

“I’ll be putting it up in my room,” 12-year-old Asia said of the poster she had signed by the Broncos.

The Optimist Youth Football and Cheer organization held its annual jamboree at Bronco Stadium on Saturday.

Once again, the Boise State team participated in the event, a tradition organizers say started when Chris Petersen became head coach in 2006.

Last year, each youth team was “adopted” by several Boise State players, who appeared in the team picture. This year, Boise State players played catch and signed for 90 minutes.

“It was pretty cool that we could come out here and meet them and play football with them and get our stuff signed,” Asia said. “My brother, he likes football so much.”

It wasn’t that long ago that the same Boise State players were the ones in youth jerseys.

“I was more nervous for Optimist games, for the jamboree, than I was now or in high school or middle school,” said Boise State safety Dillon Lukehart, a sophomore from Eagle. “I was so nervous, I’d start shaking.”

These kids were nervous, too. Chatty in line, they clammed up a bit when they got to the autograph table.

“They’re all pretty shy when they come through the line,” said Corey Bell, another Optimist alum.

Bell played for the Simplot Mustangs. He remembers their light blue jerseys and his first positions — tight end and cornerback.

“I remember being super excited for the jamboree every year, being pumped up to be able to come out here and play on the blue,” said Bell, a junior linebacker from Boise. “That was one of the most exciting things of all.”

Saturday was a day to give back, to create those memories for another batch of kids.

“Now it’s so much technical stuff. Back then it was see ball, get ball,” Lukehart said. “That’s where the fun began, where the passion for the game began.”

And to make sure that the event catered to its intended audience, organizers created a strict “no parents” rule. All adults, save Optimist volunteers, had to stay in the stands.

Brilliant.

There was no cutting in line. No fighting. No yelling. No crying. No whining. Older siblings looked out for younger brothers and sisters.

Kids waited their turns, whether it was to run routes on the blue or for a player to sign.

And no one came through line with their arms full of items to be signed — and then sold.

Each child could bring one outside item along with the posters, which were given out for free by Boise State. The school went through all 500 posters it printed.

With Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel reportedly under investigation for signing autographs for money, the Broncos have re-examined thier autograph policies.

Saturday’s event is the team’s only formal autograph session all year.

“Something like this where you’re talking about kids that are 7 to 12 years old and we’ve got our whole team signing stuff, we feel pretty comfortable with that,” said Brad Larrondo, Boise State’s assistant athletic director for football.

When it comes to individual situations, Boise State has encouraged players to personalize their signatures.

If student-athletes aren’t going to be compensated for their autographs — and they can’t, per NCAA rules — then at least no one else should be profitting from them, the thinking goes.

“If we don’t know where the item is going, if somebody walks up in a grocery store and asks somebody to sign the receipt, we don’t want the guys to be in a position to go, ‘No, I can’t sign that.’ But if it’s, ‘To Annie’ or ‘To whatever,’ that’s what we try to do,” Larrondo said.

“The cover of the game program is a good example. Someone might buy a game program and they want Kirby Moore to sign it. We don’t want to discourage that, but we also don’t want that to appear on Craigslist or eBay. That’s where if you personalize it, you eliminate a lot of that risk.”

There was no risk Saturday. Just kids — those in Boise State blue jerseys and Optimist youth ones — having a good time. These autographs are going above beds and on corkboards, not to authentication experts and online auctions.

How refreshing.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444,Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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