Junior Charles Bertoli promises: If he’s one of the Boise State football team’s key contributors at running back this season, he won’t be doing snowboard tricks.
“I’ve toned it down, way down,” Bertoli said Wednesday, the second day of spring practice for the Broncos. “I’m not doing any of that stuff anymore. I’m focusing on what’s at stake here.”
Bertoli, who rode dirt bikes in middle school and high school, broke his collarbone in January 2014 while snowboarding. That cost him much of spring ball last year.
I told him I’d heard he’s a bit of a daredevil.
“I wouldn’t say daredevil,” he said, “but I like to enjoy my time up here. Another thing about coming to Boise was how many outdoor activities they have available.”
Even those he makes up.
Earlier this winter, Bertoli posted a video and photo to Instagram (see below) of him jumping a bowl of fire set atop a picnic table in his back yard. He used his snowboard, a jump built with snow and a Banshee Bungee, which allows boarders to produce speed on flat ground.
That, someone suggested, might count as “daredevil” activity.
“I guess that’s a good point,” Bertoli said.
He hopes to fly much higher in the future. His Twitter bio says “Future Pilot.” He’d like to attend Navy Officer Training after college and become a Navy pilot like his uncle. He has flown with his uncle and grandfather.
“Every time I get up in the sky, it’s where I feel I need to be,” he said.
And Bertoli is one to follow his feelings, even if he faces long odds.
He was told to try a new position or sport if he wanted to be a college athlete. He was told he couldn’t compete at the Football Bowl Subdivision level by a Division III coaching staff, he said.
Yet here he is, a scholarship running back at Boise State who has been a significant contributor on special teams. He has appeared in all 27 games the past two seasons.
“It was my dream to play college football,” Bertoli said. “I really was looking for one of the biggest places I could go. I heard back from Boise State. I had been sending them my stuff for as long as I can remember.”
He has played running back since fourth grade. He was a two-time league MVP at St. Helena (Calif.) High, where he scored 37 touchdowns as a senior.
“Everyone in high school told me, ‘If you want to play college you should probably think about playing defense or playing baseball,’ ” he said. “But I was determined to get here as a running back. I got a shot and tried to make the most of it.”
He has 27 carries for 139 yards in his career. On special teams last year, he forced a fumble and recovered two. He carried the Hammer against New Mexico.
This spring, he’s competing for what likely will be committee playing time at tailback after the departure of star Jay Ajayi for the NFL.
Ajayi rushed for 1,823 yards last season. The rest of the tailbacks: 173 for Devan Demas, 159 for Jeremy McNichols, 31 for Jack Fields and 24 for Bertoli.
Fields is a senior. Demas and Bertoli are juniors. McNichols, the front-runner for the starting job, is a true sophomore who will be limited this spring because of hernia surgery. The Broncos also add redshirt freshman Cory Young and redshirt sophomore Ryan Wolpin to the competition this year.
“We’re all trying to fill Jay’s spot and I think it’s going to be a lot different than it was last year,” Bertoli said. “It’s not going to be just one back taking 90, 95 percent of the reps. I think we’re going to be cycling in there.
“... Everyone knows that there’s a lot at stake and a lot of playing time to be had this year.”
McNichols, Young and Demas are slashing options. Fields and Bertoli are power runners.
“We’re just trying to match Jay’s physicality,” Bertoli said. “He was a beast out there.”
• • •
Defensive line coach Steve Caldwell and center Marcus Henry also met with the media Wednesday. Their interviews are below. I’ll have more posts the next two days covering what they said.