All you have to do is watch Boise State junior cornerback Jonathan Moxey play to get a sense of how much football means to him.
Compare his play to last year, and you see how much excelling means to him.
Moxey, a second-year starter, is one of the most improved players on the Broncos’ team in 2015. He’s tied for third in the Mountain West in passes defended (10) with two interceptions and eight pass breakups.
Senior teammate Donte Deayon leads the conference with 11.
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Moxey finished last season with eight passes defended.
“He can go out there and play with anybody he’s out there against, and he’s shown that and he doesn’t just do it on defense — he does it on special teams,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “He’s been showing up. I’ve been really happy with his growth since he’s been here as a person, as a player — being part of that secondary with the other guys in there, we’ve got some good players and he’s right there with them.”
Like Deayon — one of the Broncos’ signature players — Moxey played a limited role as a true freshman, became a starter as a sophomore and has blossomed as a junior.
He has learned from Deayon and senior safety Darian Thompson, as well as some of the past Broncos greats. The lesson they all learn eventually: video study can be as important as technique.
“It takes time,” Moxey said. “Sometimes you might go in there and watch film and not really know what you’re looking at. Having those older guys help you, it elevates your game. And now I know, when I get put in that situation when the younger guys need help, I can help them. And that’s one thing that will keep the talent flowing through Boise State in the secondary.”
The Broncos have an extensive recent history of NFL cornerbacks, a list that includes Chris Carr, Orlando Scandrick, Kyle Wilson, Brandyn Thompson and Jamar Taylor.
Moxey, who likes to study Scandrick and Taylor, remembers that tradition when he takes the field.
“You know that those guys are watching these games and they want to see us make plays because it’s ‘DBFamU,’ ” Moxey said. “So whenever you’re on the field, you’ve got to remind yourself that you’re playing for more than just you.”
Moxey’s drive — which fuels the edginess he shows on the field — comes from all angles. He wants to help his team win, fulfill the Broncos’ cornerback tradition and prove his skeptics wrong. An old fashioned love of the game also pulses through him.
He is learning to manage that emotion — he was flagged for a key penalty in the loss at BYU for talking too much — as part of his maturation process.
“Since I was little, I always played with passion — a passion for the game,” Moxey said. “I just love the game. When I’m out there, I play with a chip on my shoulder knowing that I was under-recruited coming all the way from Florida. Knowing that there were guys I was better than back then that had offers that I should have had, and knowing that this place is full of guys like that. ... That’s one thing that gives our defense an edge.”
Moxey started 12 games last season. He lost a tight battle with then-senior Cleshawn Page in fall camp for the starting job and took over when Page was injured. Moxey showed potential but was inconsistent.
He was a different player in spring ball, and that progress continued throughout the offseason.
“He made his biggest jump going from springtime to fall camp, just with his ability to read things the offense is trying to do, his ability to process information in our scheme,” Brown said. “We’ve been happy with where he’s at. By no means is he where we need him to be or where he wants to be. We’ve just got to continue to push him.”
The biggest difference in his game, Moxey said, is his rising football IQ. He has learned what to look for on video, how to test that information in practice and how to apply it in games.
Last year, he said, he wouldn’t have much idea what to expect on first-and-10. Now he has a feel for what offenses like to do in a variety of situations.
“I just wanted to be consistent in knowing my plays and playing at a high level,” Moxey said. “That was my goal. ... I feel like I’m getting there.”
Moxey will be one of the defensive leaders next year, when Deayon and Thompson are gone. He’s getting a taste of that experience this week with Deayon out for about a month because of knee surgery.
Moxey will make his 21st career start Saturday night.
“He’s a guy that you’ve seen every week get better and better and better,” defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said. “Now he’ll be the guy for us.”
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398; Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPN2 (Mark Neely, Tom Ramsey)
Radio: KBOI (670 AM), KBOI (93.1 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
Records: Boise State is 5-2, 2-1 Mountain West; Wyoming is 1-6, 1-2
Series: Boise State leads 9-0 (Broncos won 63-14 in 2014 in Laramie)
Coaches: Boise State: Bryan Harsin (17-4, second year; 24-9, third year overall); Wyoming: Craig Bohl (5-14, second year; 109-46, 13th year overall)
Vegas line: Boise State by 35
Kickoff weather: High 50s, with 4 mph winds and no precipitation