Boise State Football

Mario Yakoo, inspired by family and BSU football, helps lead special group of linemen

Boise State players, coaches discuss all 20 Broncos to be honored on senior night

The Boise State football team will honor19 seniors and one junior before Friday's regular season home finale against UNLV. Here, players and coaches talk about all 20.
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The Boise State football team will honor19 seniors and one junior before Friday's regular season home finale against UNLV. Here, players and coaches talk about all 20.

Boise State football senior day vs. UNLV: Yakoo leads strong lineBoise State football senior day vs. UNLV: Yakoo leads strong lineWhen Mario Yakoo wants to think about family, all he has to do is look at his heavily-inked right arm. On Friday, when he heads out of the tunnel for perhaps the last time at Albertsons Stadium, they’ll be waiting in person with arms wide open to hug the big man.

It is a moment the 6-foot-4, 326-pound offensive lineman has more than earned, starting the last three seasons while playing guard and tackle, and dealing with a multitude of injuries. For his family, the ability to share in moments like senior day is the reason they came to this country.

About a decade before Yakoo was born, his father, Nouil, and mother, Haifa, emigrated to the United States from Iraq. Their names appear on his right bicep, with his own name in Arabic written on his wrist. His two brothers, Julian and Mike, and his sister, Jehan, whose name is on his forearm, will be on the Blue with their parents. They are coming from San Diego.

“Family over everything. They’ve been there for me in every way, and if I’m going to put it on my body, it has to be incredibly important to me,” Yakoo said. “My parents, they went through struggles so I didn’t have to.”

In the background of Yakoo’s phone is an image of his 97-year-old grandfather decked out in Boise State gear. He came from Iraq 10 years ago and lives in Michigan.

Yakoo might be the biggest guy on the team, but he isn’t afraid to be sentimental.

“I think he fits the position really well. He’s protective, he wants to make sure his quarterback is safe. He cares a lot about his teammates, he’s actually a big teddy bear,” senior defensive tackle Elliot Hoyte said.

“He might be the smartest guy I’ve ever coached, and we’ve had some smart ones,” co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Scott Huff said. “... He cares tremendously.”

When asked how he hopes to be remembered, Yakoo said he wants to be known as a player who gave it his all, but also “a guy that was fun to be around, made the atmosphere a little better.” Hoyte, whose locker is next to Yakoo, said each day is different, as he can be silly or serious at any given time.“It’s been the best five years of my life, it’s bittersweet, we’ve created a brotherhood that can’t be broken,” Yakoo said. “... I feel pretty comfortable with the legacy I’m going to leave here.”

It’s been the best five years of my life. It’s bittersweet. We’ve created a brotherhood that can’t be broken. … I feel pretty comfortable with the legacy I’m going to leave here.

Mario Yakoo, Boise State senior offensive lineman

The only seniors to appear in more games than Yakoo (48) are linebacker Darren Lee (50) and cornerback Jonathan Moxey (50). It has been an interesting road, as Yakoo initially committed to UCLA, but switched to Boise State before signing day. He was going to grayshirt, but an injury allowed him to enroll in August 2012, a season in which he redshirted. He’s missed the last two springs with a shoulder injury, but has missed only one game each of the past two seasons.

“A shoulder surgery, a sprained ankle, worse things could happen to me, and you need some sort of motivation,” Yakoo said. “For me, every time, it was my family and the teammates I have.”

In his time, he got close to last season’s group of seniors, a group that lost its final home game, 37-30, to Air Force on Nov. 20, 2015. He hopes to pave the way to start another long winning streak in the Broncos’ home finale against UNLV (7 p.m., ESPN2).

“After last season, we told ourselves we’re not going to let that happen to ourselves this year,” Yakoo said. “... One of the things, one of the biggest regrets they had was losing on senior night.”-Check out IdahoStatesman.com as Yakoo shows the tattoos that honor his family

Boise State senior offensive lineman Mario Yakoo talks about the tattoos he wears that honor his family, among them his parents his emigrated from Iraq.

POWER ON THE LINE

Yakoo isn’t the only offensive lineman who will be missed.

The biggest contributing group of seniors comes from the line, with three starters and two key backups. After allowing 31 sacks last season, the unit has allowed 14 this season.

“Those guys are like my kids, I mean it in the best way possible,” co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Scott Huff said. “... I don’t know if you could find five finer human beings in college football.

“I might be the saddest guy in the stadium on senior night.”

Here’s a quick look at the other four:

WILL ADAMS

The Auburn transfer has not started a game for the Broncos in his lone season in Boise, but has played in all 10 games.

“He just bought into the culture and everything we do here,” guard Kellen Buhr said.

TRAVIS AVERILL

A starter in 35 games the last three seasons and 38 in his career, he has potential to play at the next level.

“He’s arguably the best guard we’ve had here in a long time, probably been our most consistent lineman the last three years,” Huff said.

STEVEN BAGGETT

Like Averilll, he has started 38 games and has done so at three spots.

“I don’t know the last offensive lineman we’ve had that’s started at tackle, guard and at center. That’s pretty sweet,” Huff said.

KELLEN BUHR

A former walk-on, the Capital High graduate was put on scholarship in fall camp and has appeared in 37 games in his career.

“Kellen’s got about as positive an attitude (as possible),” coach Bryan Harsin said. “... He’s great entertainment, in a good way. He brings a spirit to that group.”

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @IDS_BroncoBeat

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