Matt Paradis didn’t even crack the Denver Broncos’ active roster during the 2014 season.
Yet the former Council High and Boise State football player entered offseason workouts last spring with confidence.
He didn’t just want to make the team in his second year as a pro. He wanted to start.
“That was my goal and that was my plan and I was very confident in myself,” he said.
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Paradis generated buzz almost immediately that he would become the Broncos’ starter — and he never left that spot once he earned it. He is the only Bronco to play every offensive snap this season going into the Super Bowl on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
His star quarterback, Peyton Manning, compared Paradis favorably to two-time All-Pro Jeff Saturday, Manning’s longtime center in Indianapolis.
“Matt is off to a great start in his career,” Manning told the Denver Post. “Matt is a tough guy. He is a guy you like having in front of you. You know he is going to fight for you.”
Paradis fights for himself, too.
His persistence convinced Boise State to offer him a walk-on spot after an eight-man career at Council, where he was the 2007 1A All-Idaho Player of the Year as a two-way lineman but also tore an anterior cruciate ligament. He grayshirted, delaying enrollment until January 2009, redshirted (he was the defensive scout player of the year as a tackle) and begrudgingly switched positions to the offensive line.
By the time he left for the NFL, he was a first-team All-Mountain West pick in 2012, a second-team pick in 2013, a sixth-round draft pick of the Broncos and a college graduate with a double major (finance and business economics).
Boise State offensive line coach Scott Huff, who was on the Broncos’ staff throughout Paradis’ career and is a former center, said he isn’t surprised to see Paradis succeeding again.
“Anytime you’ve got guys who are smart and tough, they’re going to do a lot playing O-line,” Huff said. “And he defines smart and tough.”
Paradis directs traffic on the offensive line for Denver just as he did for Boise State. That job can be simpler at times in the NFL, he said, because nobody plays a San Diego State-style, chaos defense.
“That probably prepared him a lot for the NFL,” Huff said of Boise State’s system. “Some college offenses don’t ask a whole lot of their offensive line. The quarterback is in charge of everything. That’s not the case with us. It all kind of runs through the center.”
The challenge, Paradis said, was developing the trust and chemistry with his linemates as a newcomer.
“It takes a little bit,” he said. “Later in the season, our communication got shorter and they trust it more.”
Paradis has tried to separate the hype from the game in preparing for the Panthers. Coaches gave the players two days off to deal with tickets, family travel arrangements, hometown interviews — whatever.
Starting Jan. 28, the focus was on the field.
“I’m here to play a game,” Paradis said Jan. 27. “I’m not focused on anything else. It hasn’t even hit me it’s the Super Bowl yet.”
In Council, about two hours north of Boise on Highway 95, it’s much more than just another game. Local businesses organized last weekend and decorated their storefronts with good-luck posters.
The high school sent Paradis video of a pep assembly that included him two weeks ago and a video this week of students and staff forming his number, 61, in the gym. Students and staff at Council Elementary, where Paradis’ mom Janice teaches, made T-shirts and staged a celebration.
“On Super Bowl Sunday, it’ll be a safe bet that any party in Council will be a Matt Paradis party. ... The town is definitely buzzing about Matt,” Council High Athletic Director David Howe said.
Said Paradis: “I imagine it will be going crazy. Those guys do a great job of supporting me. I’m proud to be from there. That whole community has been awesome.’’
Idaho connections to Super Bowl 50
▪ Matt Paradis (Boise State, Council High), No. 61: Starting center for Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.
▪ Shiloh Keo (Idaho, Eagle resident), No. 33: Backup safety and special teams player for Denver Broncos.
▪ Jared Allen (Idaho State), No. 69: Starting defensive end for the Carolina Panthers.
▪ Joe Kenn (Boise State): Former BSU strength coach is the head strength and conditioning coach for Carolina.
COMING SUNDAY IN THE STATESMAN: Profile on Shiloh Keo, who lives in Eagle with his wife, a Centennial High graduate, and their two boys.