You can find him wandering Quail Hollow Golf Course on a summer morning, alone, even though Brett Rypien is one of the most recognizable people in Boise.
In the dark of the Boise State football film room, he often can be found, alone, scribbling notes as he watches.
Unable to clear his head with a big game on the horizon, he’s been known to drive to the Broncos’ facility in the middle of the night.
Playing quarterback at Boise State makes you the center of attention — but it’s those moments where the spotlight is off that Rypien creates his own success.
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“There’s a balance you have to find where you want to be the best, but not put too much pressure on yourself,” Rypien said. “I like having that time to myself, that time to focus or to clear my thoughts. Everyone can lift, be in meetings or practice, but it’s that time away that separates you.”
Rypien was named the Mountain West Preseason Offensive Player of the Year on Tuesday after a junior season in which he threw for 2,877 yards (completing 62.6 percent) with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.
That’s the potential pressure that could mess with a player’s mind, the sort of stress he placed on himself earlier in his Boise State career. But those moments alone with his thoughts during a rough start to 2017 has prepared him for anything.
“I did those late drives, that sort of thing, a little more last year than any other,” Rypien said. “I started to figure it out a little bit that you own your expectations. I had to gain perspective to play for me, for my love of football. Do that, and my teammates feed off it and the community does too.
“I’ve got to take ownership of the expectations I have and the team has this year.”
Boise State’s quarterbacks room features a sign that notes the importance of the “quarterback lifestyle” that includes five points — being above reproach off the field, competing in everything, outworking all, standing out academically — and “the lonely hours.”
Coach Bryan Harsin said that last portion was something he strongly believes in and where Rypien has always stood out.
“If you read history and all that, it’s where all the great ideas come from, being alone with your thoughts and you have to have that, especially at the quarterback position,” Harsin said. “It’s important you do the work nobody talks about or sees so you have the confidence in your own ability to go out there and attack challenges when they come your way.”
Rypien will find that focus in a few ways, such as with a book. He recently started reading a book recommended by his father — “Chop Wood, Carry Water: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great.”
It’s an apt book for a player trying to cement himself as one of Boise State’s best and trying to reach a major bowl game, something he isn’t shy about discussing.
“I think about that all the time. One thing I came here (to do) was go to a New Year’s Six bowl,” Rypien said. “That’s the expectation, the highest standard for us. I haven’t done that my first three years.”
But this is not a journey Rypien takes on alone. Senior cornerback Tyler Horton said he’s focused like any other veteran and “gets animated, his ears perk up” when locker room conversations turn to topics like golf. He gambled a bit with fellow Mountain West quarterbacks last year in Las Vegas and did so with Wyoming safety Andrew Wingard on Monday.
“I was playing blackjack with him,” Wingard said. “He’s a really smart guy, that’s what sets him apart. He doesn’t have the biggest arm or is the biggest guy, but he’s a really intelligent player, and that can really take him to the next level.”
Being thrown in the fire as a true freshman, seeing a sophomore season start with promise then fall apart midway through and a brutal start to last season (no touchdown passes in September), Rypien has seen it all. And in those quiet moments, he’s found himself, aiming to live up to all that’s expected of him and the Broncos.
“Whatever happens this year, I’ll be ready for it,” Rypien said.