Hawaii Bowl: Boise State center never stops working

Matt Paradis’ work ethic, instilled at a young age, has helped the Idaho native become a star at BSU.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comDecember 22, 2013 

Matt Paradis walked on at Boise State and began his collegiate career as a defensive lineman, earning Scout Defensive Player of the Year as a redshirt. He switched to the offensive line in 2010 and is a two-time all-conference center.

DARIN OSWALD — Idaho Statesman file

The four Paradis children received the same indoctrination to school and hard work.

When they turned 5, they entered the afternoon session of kindergarten.

That left their mornings free to drive a truck around the family cattle ranch while their dad fed hay to the cows off the back.

Each continued to work the ranch until college.

“It’s been a ton of work,” said Boise State senior center Matt Paradis, the youngest of those children, “but I think it’s been great for my life.”

Paradis worked his way from 1A eight-man football to Boise State walk-on defensive tackle to scholarship offensive lineman to two-time All-Mountain West center (first team in 2012, second team in 2013).

He also graduated last week with a double major — finance and business economics.

He will play his final college game Tuesday against Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl (6 p.m. MT, ESPN) and turn that native work ethic toward the next step: the NFL, where he is considered a free-agent prospect.

“If there is anyone who epitomizes Boise State football, it’s a guy like Matt Paradis,” interim coach Bob Gregory said. “He’s hard-working, tough, smart — he certainly will leave a legacy here.”

And at home in Council, the tiny mountain town where Paradis was raised. It sits in Adams County, which has 3,900 residents — or about the same number of people who sat in the north end zone bleachers at Bronco Stadium to watch Paradis play.

“I travel around this upper country quite a bit,” said Mike Paradis, Matt’s dad and an Adams County commissioner. “People from Weiser to McCall, they all kind of claim him. There have been people who really haven’t been football fans in the past and since he started playing are now big Boise State fans.”

Paradis (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) was a Broncos fan with a college football dream as a child, but he never connected the two until then-Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin made contact.

“I didn’t view it as a possibility because nobody does it — not just from my town, but the entire 1A division,” Paradis said. “People don’t go play D-I football.”

But he was different — in part because of his upbringing.

The Paradis family runs the X5 Ranch 2.5 miles north of Council. They have about 300 acres and 120 cows. They also grow hay and grain.

Among the children’s chores: driving that flatbed pickup. Mike never got thrown off the back, he said.

“They would stand in the seat and drive,” Mike said. “I’d get in the back and feed the hay. … We’d put it in low-range, four-wheel drive and granny gear and creep along.

“… We all had the philosophy to get your work done and then you can go do some of the things you want to do.”

For Paradis, that meant sports and hunting.

He couldn’t play football until seventh grade because Council didn’t have a youth program. He played both lines and was the backup quarterback that year.

He became a three-year varsity football starter at Council as a defensive tackle and offensive guard. He also played basketball, competed in track and field and went out for summer baseball when he could. Council won a football state championship his junior year and he won the state discus title his senior year — about six months after surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

He played in the football playoffs on that torn ACL and won the discus title two and a half weeks after he was cleared to start throwing again.

“He was pretty focused when he put his mind to something,” Council football coach Dan Shumway said.

Paradis was a rare lineman to win an Idaho Statesman Player of the Year honor in 2007. He was offered a partial scholarship by Rocky Mountain College in Montana and drew interest from Lewis & Clark in Portland but he chose to walk on at Boise State.

“The thing I remember about Matt is he was as big and as strong as anybody we played against but he worked to be fundamentally better than everybody,” Shumway said.

Paradis grayshirted at Boise State while his knee healed and joined the team as a defensive tackle in January 2009. He was the Scout Defensive Player of the Year as a redshirt.

But he briefly filled in as an offensive lineman on the scout team and experimented there again in spring 2010.

“I wasn’t ready to switch. I wish I would have,” Paradis said. “I said I’d really like to stay on the D-line. I was doing well.”

That fall, he changed his mind. The Broncos were loaded with tackles like Billy Winn, Chase Baker, Mike Atkinson and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe. He told the coaches he was ready to move to offense.

“I miss it. It was fun,” he said of defense. “You can see a call real quick and you don’t really have to think. You just fire off and go. It was a blast, but I’m very happy that I moved and I wouldn’t move back.”

The switch capitalized on one of Paradis’ strengths — his intelligence. He received academic scholarship money as a walk-on and took honors classes.

Given a football scholarship going into his sophomore year, he became a key backup and seized the inside track for the open center job in 2012.

Now, Paradis is the communication center on the offensive line and tells three-year starting left tackle Charles Leno Jr. what’s happening on the field before offensive line coach Chris Strausser gets a chance.

“He’s a really smart football player — that’s probably what separates him the most,” Leno said.

That, and the work ethic Paradis brought from Council.

“It’s just in his blood,” Strausser said. “He knows how to work hard. There’s never been once I’ve asked him to turn up the tempo, go faster, go harder. He almost laughs at some of this stuff just based on what he did as a kid growing up.

“A couple hours a day out there, that’s just fun.”

It’s a compliment Paradis has heard often.

He credits his family.

“The ability to work is something that is not necessarily instilled in people nowadays,” he said. “I can look at every job I’ve had since I left there. Every boss has said, ‘I really appreciate you being able to work.’ … I just put my nose to the grindstone and get it done because that’s how I was raised and that’s what we were taught to do.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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