Boise State junior quarterback Bush Hamdan knows about overcoming obstacles.
His family was on vacation from their home in Kuwait when the country was invaded by Iraq in 1990. Fortunate timing, yes, but the family lost most of its possessions.
"They lost everything, and got everything back," Hamdan said of his parents. "They're tremendous people."
He knows about patience, too.
His brother, Gibran, sat on the bench for four years at Indiana before he got a chance to play. He parlayed that one season into a career as an NFL reserve quarterback and NFL Europa standout.
"He's been a real positive influence for me," Hamdan said.
Hamdan, the third-stringer last year, hopes to use those lessons to win the Broncos' starting quarterback job. He has waited three years for this opportunity — and so far this spring he has seized the moment.
Hamdan was the most efficient of the Broncos' four quarterbacks in the first two scrimmages. He gets another chance tonight in the Spring Game, the Broncos' last practice until August.
Hamdan is 13-of-18 for 132 yards with no turnovers in the scrimmages.
"He's done a nice job taking the next step," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "He's really worked on all the things we've talked to him about working on to get better, and you can see a great deal of improvement. It's encouraging."
Senior Taylor Tharp — who is Hamdan's friend and chief competition — has noticed, too.
"Bush is out there making plays," Tharp said. "It's only going to push me more to stay with him."
Hamdan brings a strong arm and emotional presence to the Bronco offense. He was held back earlier in his career by his grasp of the offense and his habit of letting a bad play derail him.
All along, he showed he was a committed worker — so much so that he installed as much of the Boise State offense as possible in his Madden NFL 2005 football video game. He uses it like a flight simulator."He's doing a good job of taking the next step with the offense, understanding where the ball needs to go," Petersen said. "We've said all along he's got a big-time arm. That's not the issue."
Hamdan, who is the Broncos' shortest quarterback at 6-foot-1, also has a "commanding presence" on the field, Petersen said.
Hamdan is the most overtly emotional quarterback — reacting with fist pumps even when he makes a play in practice.
He enjoys the challenge of trying to beat coordinator Justin Wilcox's defense, and the reward of yapping about it when he does.
Conversely, defenders like linebacker David Shields — who is Hamdan's roommate — enjoy teasing him when they intercept one of his passes.
"I wear my emotions on my sleeve more so than the other guys," Hamdan said.
"That's just how I've always played the game. … I just have to make sure with that stuff that whenever I feel too high or too low that I go back to what's made me successful this spring. As much as I can when I'm on that field, I'm just thinking about being consistent and putting the offense in the best position to score."
Petersen says Hamdan always had the tools of a strong leader — from his presence in the huddle to his off-field relationships with teammates.
"He's always got a smile on his face," said freshman quarterback Mike Coughlin, who stayed with Hamdan while visiting Boise last summer. "He's always enthusiastic. … There's only one Bush on this team, and he does it very well."
Hamdan, in fact, says his teammates are the driving force behind his desire to win the starting job.
He wants to earn their respect and keep the Broncos' five-year WAC reign alive.
"There's such good people here," he said. "You don't want to fail."
Hamdan comes from a family of achievers.
The family moved from San Diego to Kuwait, where Hamdan was born, and was visiting San Diego when the Gulf War began.
They eventually settled in Gaithersburg, Md., where Hamdan became a football and baseball star.
His dad, Latif, is a nuclear scientist who works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Latif, a Palestinian, came to the United States to attend the University of Illinois.
Hamdan's mom, Laila, moved here from Pakistan after she met and married Latif. She owns a cosmetology school.
And Gibran signed this year with the Miami Dolphins.
All of them provide a support group for Hamdan, even though his parents know little about football. He talks to his brother after every practice, and his mother will attend the Spring Game.
Gibran is of particular help because of his history of waiting for an opportunity. Not only did he wait four years at Indiana, but he gets limited chances to take snaps even in practice in the NFL.
Gibran's experience taught Hamdan a lesson that has served him well this spring — and one he hopes to pass down in the future as a college coach.
"You keep fighting," Hamdan said, "until someone says you can't do it anymore."