Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin paused during team meetings this summer to make a request of the linebackers.
“Tell everyone how Joey’s doing in baseball,” Harsin would say.
“Someone would say, ‘He’s balling,’ ” junior linebacker Tanner Vallejo said.
Joey is sophomore linebacker Joe Martarano, the former Fruitland High multi-sport star who has spent the past two summers playing pro baseball in the Chicago Cubs’ organization.
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Martarano left the Broncos for two months this year, from mid-May to mid-July.
“I enjoy both and I just think it’s a good opportunity to kind of keep both dreams alive,” Martarano said. “The coaches understand that and they’re real supportive.”
Martarano tested that support when he called to tell Harsin he was being promoted to Eugene in the Northwest League but would need to extend his stay a few days to capitalize on the opportunity.
Harsin didn’t blink.
“You need to do that,” Harsin told him.
Martarano began the summer at extended spring training in Arizona to knock off the rust. He doesn’t break out his baseball equipment until spring.
Martarano hit .315 for the Cubs’ Arizona League team with 12 RBIs in 14 games. He was 2-for-15 in four games with Eugene, playing his last game on July 17.
He was 2-for-13 for the Arizona League team last year, so he showed improvement in 2015.
“It was good to have more success,” he said.
Martarano performed his football workouts while he was away – after baseball during extended spring and then before his baseball games once the season started. On his second day back in Boise, he ran 16 bleacher decks with his teammates.
“I thought they were going to make him run less but he ran 16 decks and seemed to do pretty good,” Vallejo said.
Martarano finished eighth on the team with 42 tackles last season. He shared time at middle linebacker with Blake Renaud (39 tackles) and took on an increasingly large role late in the season.
But Vallejo’s move back to middle linebacker from nickel means Martarano likely will be a backup this year. Renaud was a senior last year.
“You can’t get frustrated,” Martarano said. “You’ve just got to worry about yourself and keep getting better.”
Eugene will be in town to play the Boise Hawks for three games beginning Sunday and three more games beginning Aug. 17. Martarano said he wasn’t tempted to try to play.
“The season is close,” he said. “We’ve got a good opponent with (Washington) so I’m trying to stay focused on that.”
Linebackers coach Andy Avalos appreciates the way Martarano is able to handle both sports simultaneously. They communicated throughout the summer and Martarano watched video online.
“Joe did the extra things he needed to do,” Avalos said. “We talked to him about those things – you’re not trying to be great at one thing right now, you’re trying to be great at two things.”
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– Boise State defensive line coach Steve Caldwell said Friday that senior Tyler Horn and junior Sam McCaskill will begin at end this season but play some tackle. Both were recruited to Boise State as ends. Horn was a starting tackle going into last season but redshirted after he was injured in the opener. McCaskill replaced him and started the rest of the season.
Redshirt freshmen Jabril Frazier and Kaleb Hill have shown promise at stud end, Caldwell said. The two youngsters are playing behind Kamalei Correa and Gabe Perez.
Caldwell joked about his 20-man defensive line, “I don’t think I can name them all.” He had to add a couple chairs to the meeting room to accommodate the larger-than-usual group that features seven seniors.
– Walk-on tight end Jake Knight is ineligible this season under NCAA transfer rules. He was on the track team at Auburn last school year. The former Rocky Mountain High star originally signed to play football at Oregon State.
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