One game at a time, they say. But deep down, that’s not always the case.
For Boise State sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien, the home opener against Washington State on Saturday has been in the back of his mind for some time.
“I’ve had it marked on my calendar for awhile,” Rypien said.
A Spokane native, Rypien is the nephew of former Washington State quarterback Mark Rypien, who starred for the Cougars before being drafted in 1986 and beginning an 11-year NFL career that included two Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl titles.
For Mark, blood may be thicker than water, but it’s not thicker than parchment.
“My heart and soul is in both directions, but I’m a Cougar through and through,” Mark said. “I hope Brett throws for 490 yards and seven touchdowns, but loses to my Cougars 63-49.”
For Brett, who was a first-team All-Mountain West selection as a true freshman last season, throwing for 3,353 yards (only 1,220 fewer than his uncle had his entire career), he was hardly surprised at his uncle’s stance.
“I don’t blame him. He’s a Coug alum, he’s a diehard Coug fan; it’s tough to go against that. But he’ll be rooting for me as well. He wants the Cougs to win, but he’ll be rooting for me,” Brett said.
It might be a fortunate thing I won’t be able to go to the game. I want the Cougars to win, because they mean so much to me, but I think the world of my nephew, what he’s done and what he represents.
Brett’s first offer as a star at Shadle Park High, where his uncle also excelled, was from Washington State. His final three schools when he was ready to commit the spring of his junior year were Washington State, Washington and Boise State. He picked the Broncos.
“It definitely helped me climb out of my (Mark’s) shadow and into Kellen Moore’s,” Brett said with a laugh.
Mark said he wasn’t shocked by the decision.
“That’s the character and the confidence he has. He wants to go out and make his own name,” he said. “I do admire him for that. I wonder if maybe he kept Washington State in the mix just to appease me.”
It was more than lip service, with the younger Rypien shattering state records and racking up 13,044 yards in his prep career. He heavily considered the Cougars, he said, and they no doubt had him on their radar, giving him his first offer during his sophomore year.
“We recruited a lot of quarterbacks, and he was one of them,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said. “We had a high opinion of him then, and we do now.”
For Brett, he saw Boise State as a place he could flourish, and after becoming the first true freshman to play in 22 years last season, it quickly showed. Leach said he was not surprised to see him get the starting job early.
“I think it was just a better fit for me. I loved the town, loved the coaching staff; the winning tradition here obviously was a big factor, too,” Brett said. “I wanted to learn a different offense. I played in the Air Raid (offense) in high school and think I wanted something different. Coming down here was the best situation for me, and obviously has been.”
Seeing his nephew put up big numbers and help Boise State to a 14th straight bowl game (Washington State has been in 12 all-time), Mark also said it was the right choice.
“I would’ve loved to see him in a Cougar uniform, but that’s not Brett,” he said. “I’m so proud of him stepping out, trying something different and really excelling.”
Mark and Brett exchange calls and texts during the week throughout the season, and though Brett said he doesn’t think Mark will be in touch much this week, Mark said “I’m definitely going to wish him well and congratulate him after, no matter what happens.”
He won’t be at Saturday’s game, as the former Super Bowl MVP had a previous commitment to a golf event in Bermuda.
When Brett began taking his potential as a quarterback seriously, he worked with his uncle as a junior high student to learn work habits that would allow him to become a collegiate passer.
“He’s been huge with me, how to handle yourself on the field as well as off the field,” Brett said. “It’s good having a guy that’s been through it all, been through the college ranks, been through the pro ranks, knows the ins and outs of everything there is to being a quarterback at this level. He’s been definitely a great influence on me.”
Brett has plenty of memories attending Washington State games, saying the 2012 game against Washington in Pullman, a 31-28 overtime win, was the best he’s seen. His mother, Julie, also attended Washington State. Her brother, Chris Tormey, was a Washington State assistant in the 2011 season.
“It’s definitely a different feeling playing the team I grew up watching, but I think when we get out there Saturday, it’s just going to be another opponent, so I’m not really going to be thinking about that,” Brett said.
Perhaps, but there is extra motivation, make no mistake.
“He’s definitely fired up,” junior tight end Alec Dhaenens said. “He’s fired up for every game, but this one’s definitely on his calendar, wants to have them come down here and beat them.”
Other WSU ties
▪ Boise State defensive assistants Andy Avalos (coordinator) and Gabe Franklin (safeties) started for the Broncos the last time they faced Washington State, a 42-20 Cougars win Sept. 8, 2001, in Boise. Avalos was a freshman linebacker, and Franklin a freshman cornerback making their home debuts.
“They scored a lot of points. We were talking about it the other day,” Avalos said. “It was a blowout. ... We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us.”
Avalos joked that the pair don’t like to reminisce about that “because it was one of the worst losses on the blue.” Franklin laughed it off, saying, “Honestly, I don’t remember that game.”
▪ Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice attended WSU at the same time as Mark Rypien, and their relationship dates to high school. Rice was a junior at Richland High when Rypien was a senior at Shadle Park, and they faced off in the 1980 state playoffs.
“He was pretty amazing,” Rice said. “I was probably 160 pounds; Mark was 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. I remember I came around the corner on a blitz and I was like, ‘I’m going to be the hero.’ Only problem was who I was trying to hit. I hit him and just fell to the ground. He got the throw off, picked me up and basically said, ‘Good try, little guy.’ ”
Rice was an assistant at Gonzaga in Spokane from 1998-2010 and ran across Rypien again many times, both continuing to keep in touch over the years. Even before his nephew came, they talked a lot about football.
“He won’t admit it this week, but he loves Boise State football,” Rice said. “He’s a loyal guy, and I love that about him. He treats people really well, really cares about the community up there.”
Washington State at Boise State
- When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf), Boise
- TV: ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich). ESPN2 can be found on Cable One (channel 134 or 1134 for HD), DirecTV (channel 209) and Dish (channel 144).
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender). Coverage begins with Bronco GameDay at 3 p.m. and continues through postgame reaction.
- Records: Boise State 1-0 (0-0 Mountain West); Washington State 0-1 (0-0 Pac-12)
- Tickets: Boise State said about 1,400 tickets remain, between season tickets, mini-plans and single-game tickets. Info: broncosports.com/tickets or 426-4737.
- Kickoff weather: Mid-70s and sunny, overnight lows in the mid-50s with slight winds and no chance of precipitation
- Vegas line: Boise State favored by 10 points
- Series: Washington State leads 4-0 (the four games: 58-0 in Pullman in 1997; 33-21 in Boise in 1998; 42-35 in Pullman in 2000; 41-20 in Boise in 2001)
- Boise State vs. the Pac-12: The Broncos are 9-13 against the league, including 5-3 at home. Boise State has a two-game winning streak against the Pac-12 after wins over Arizona (38-30 in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl) and Washington (16-13 in the 2015 home opener).