Bryan Harsin — A speed demon ... the life of the party ... respected leader

STATESMAN STAFFDecember 12, 2013 

A NEED FOR SPEED — AWAY FROM FOOTBALL

Bryan Harsin spent much of his Boise childhood at race tracks with his father, Dale, an accomplished drag racer. He loved the experience.

“Just being out there with my dad, that was the best time growing up,” Harsin said.

Dale Harsin began drag racing in 1971 and introduced his son to motor sports at a young age. When Bryan was 3, he had a motorcycle with training wheels. He soon graduated to go-karts. By 7, his summers were spent accompanying his father to races across the West.

The road trips cemented the bond between father and son.

“He was my son, but he was one of my best friends,” Dale said.

Dale allowed Bryan to get his license to drive the dragster as a high school graduation present. As he did with football, Harsin quickly devised ways to get more out of the car, to generate more speed.

“I watch him sit down and figure things out on the football field that most people can’t even think about,” Dale said. “Driving a car, he’d ask questions. I’d tell him, ‘If you do this and this, this car goes this way.’ He’d go, ‘But what if we do this?’ Try it and see. He’d get some ideas until he went down the track faster than I did. He had it figured out exactly.”

A LIFE-CHANGING CALL, AND A NEW WIFE

Kes Hulbert met Bryan when she was a 15-year-old ninth-grader. Bryan, one year younger, made an impression with his humor.

“The life of the party,” Kes said.

The two dated through high school and college, but broke up for several months before Harsin’s senior year at Boise State. Kes, needing a change, sold all of her belongings and drove to Arizona to live with her sister.

A week after she moved, Harsin called and asked if he could visit.

When he showed up, he took her to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner and proposed.

“He realized, if I want to have her, I’ve got to go get her and get my life rolling,” Kes said.

HARSIN THREW ONE TD AS A PLAYER — ON THE BIG STAGE

Boise State opened its 1999 season at No. 17 UCLA, in the Rose Bowl, and trailed 38-0 going into the fourth quarter.

Enter Harsin, the Broncos’ backup quarterback, a senior with 16 previous career attempts.

There was less than 5 minutes left in the game.

Harsin drove the Broncos downfield against the Bruins’ backup defense, going 99 yards in seven plays. The drive ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass to fourth-string walk-on tight end Shaelan McDonough.

It was the only touchdown pass of Harsin’s playing career.

It was the first game of McDonough’s career at Boise State — and his only touchdown catch.

“I still remember it like it was yesterday,’’ McDonough said Wednesday from Thousand Oaks, Calif., where he has his own dental practice. “It was a great spiral in the lights, a perfect pass, actually. I just had to catch it.’’

Said UCLA coach Bob Toledo at the time: “I was sorry to see Boise score at the end because the defense missed out on a shutout.’’

McDonough said Harsin ended up with the ball, and believes he still has it.

“That (TD) was important to me,’’ Harsin once said.

McDonough, who attended the Boise State games at Washington and San Diego State this year, said he was excited to hear that Harsin is Boise State’s new coach.

“He always wanted to do it. We all knew (starting quarterback) Bart (Hendricks) was the man, and Bryan spent most of his time hanging out with (Mark) Helfrich (the former Boise State quarterbacks coach and current Oregon head coach),’’ McDonough said.

“Bryan was always a leader, he always had the respect of the guys. He was a smart dude and he loved football.’’

A STYLE SIMILAR TO PETERSEN’S

Harsin will not have easy shoes to fill — Chris Petersen went 92-12 in eight seasons as the Broncos’ head coach. But many think Harsin is well-equipped to do it.

“That’s not going to be easy for anybody,” former Boise State quarterback Bart Hendricks said. “It certainly helps the fact that he knows how Pete operated and now he can add his little changes and tweaks, so I think that’s nice.”

Former quarterback Kellen Moore said he sees a lot of similarities between Boise State’s old coach and its new one. But also at least one difference.

“He may be able to get a little fiery at times, not that that’s a bad thing at times. You may see a little more emotion out of him,” Moore said.

Petersen has been a tremendous influence on Harsin’s career, something the new Boise State coach has talked about numerous times throughout the years.

“I’ve taken a lot of how I coach from him. Our philosophies are very similar,” Harsin said in 2007.

A FEW FAMILIAR FACES ON THE BOISE STATE ROSTER

There are seven players with remaining eligibility in 2014 who were members of the 2010 Boise State team — Harsin's final year as Boise State offensive coordinator.

The list: Quarterback Grant Hedrick, wide receiver Matt Miller, tight end Kyle Sosnowski, linebacker Travis Saxton, cornerback Bryan Douglas, safety Jeremy Ioane and kicker Dan Goodale.

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