Even at 40 years old, there’s a part of Jake Plummer that remains the boy who loves games — any game.
“I love playing handball,” he said. “I’ve been playing some outdoor, three-wall handball here in Colorado. I’m like the dog going to the dog park, bouncing off the walls, the day I get to go do that.”
Plummer will speak Saturday in Boise at the kickoff event for the Idaho Youth Sports Commission, a group that wants to train the adults involved in kids’ games to promote fitness, fun and life lessons regardless of player and team success.
It’s a mission that fits Plummer, the former Capital High, Arizona State and NFL quarterback whose passion for sports hasn’t wavered in retirement.
He plays golf, basketball, disc golf and tennis in addition to handball. He also talks sports on the Pac-12 Network and with his Snakes Takes podcast (find it at podcastone.com).
Plummer is an advisory board member for IYSC. The kickoff event is at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Stueckle Sky Center.
Plummer plans to use his relationship with sports to support the IYSC agenda.
“I played any game and every game possible,” Plummer said. “I was lucky. I grew up in the Foothills in Boise kind of north of town. My mom was one who would say, ‘Get out of here. Get out of the house. Go play. Be gone.’ So we were always doing something. If I was by myself, I’d toss up rocks and hit them up into the Foothills with a Wiffle Ball bat. I’d hit golf balls into the Foothills and go find them.”
And he was then what has become a rarity now — an elite athlete who played multiple sports.
Plummer played basketball and baseball throughout his time at Capital. He didn’t start structured weight training until he arrived at Arizona State.
He eventually led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl and started 136 games during 10 seasons in the NFL with the Cardinals and Broncos.
Even while he was playing in the NFL, he was playing handball, golf and basketball on the side.
“We tend to treat our sports less like a game these days,” he said. “To me, a game is all about fun. I had a lot of fun.”
The end of every high school season brought a mixture of sadness and excitement as he transitioned to something new. And, he says, the variety helped him.
“It was really good for my body,” he said. “You have to adapt to new sports and a whole new way of moving.”
He’ll use his speaking engagement Saturday to spread that message, he said. At least until high school, sports should be a “stress-free experience,” he said.
“Everybody wants to find the fountain of youth,” he said. “And why? Because it’s so much fun to be young and so energizing and exciting. My goal and focus on (the IYSC) is going to be to encourage kids to play as many sports as they can. I encourage coaches and parents to make the sports their children choose to play enjoyable. Make the experience one to remember. Encourage them to continue to play sports their whole life — play ‘em all.”
He started playing sports at 5, with T-ball. His first great sports memory is winning a Little League majors championship — in part because it was his first championship, and in part because the coach, Dale Harsin, made the game fun. Dale is Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin’s dad. Harsin was on the team, too.
Plummer’s Optimist football experience was similar.
“I remember being excited if there was a pizza party more than if we won or lost,” he said.
Soon, Plummer will get an up-close look at how youth sports has changed since his childhood. He lives in Boulder, Colo., with wife Kollette and their two boys, 4-year-old Roland and 1-year-old Winston.
Roland doesn’t play sports yet but he’ll grab any piece of sports equipment he sees.
“It’s bound to happen,” Plummer said, “but for the foreseeable future he’s just going to be a kid.”
Like many parents, Plummer also will have to make a decision about football. He watched the ESPN documentary on the Miami Hurricanes football program of the 1980s — “The U” — and marveled at how small the linemen were.
“With the way the game is going and the training that these kids are partaking in at a young age, I think it’s going in the wrong direction,” Plummer said.
He got beat up during his time on the gridiron — 284 NFL sacks will do that to you — but after a couple of post-career surgeries his body feels strong, he said. He’s able to do yoga and wrestle with his kids.
He retired after starting 11 games in 2006. He was 39-15 in his final four seasons, all in Denver.
“I’m glad I played as long as I did,” he said. “I don’t regret it one bit.”