With long hair, tattoos and a 300-pound frame, it looks like Garrett Larson would ride away from the Boise State football facility on a Harley.
That’s what the Broncos’ last starter at center, Mason Hampton, did. But no, Larson opts for something a little more inconspicuous.
“I’ll say this, he and Mason both have this workman mentality, that attitude you need at center,” offensive line coach Brad Bedell said. “But Garrett, he’s going to put in his work, hop into his Subaru and putt around.”
So maybe the method of transportation is different, but Boise State hopes the production at the position remains solid.
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Hampton, a Meridian High graduate, was a first-team All-Mountain West pick in 2017 and was the Mountain West Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year. As Larson, a Fruitland High graduate, moves into the starting role after Hampton’s graduation, he had a heck of a teacher in front of him.
“He’s a hell of a lot smarter than I am,” said Larson, a junior. “I wish I had a little bit more of Mason’s smarts, but I’ve got to make up for it however I can.”
Bedell said Larson will continue to grow into his role as the point man on the line, understanding schemes, barking out calls and reading defenses. His physicality, however, is already well established.
“He’s a different breed. He’s really physical, that long-haired, blue-collar guy that’s very scary to go up against,” senior defensive tackle David Moa said.
There is a confidence on the Boise State sideline rarely seen after losing a player of Hampton’s caliber. Larson played in all 14 games last season, primarily at guard, starting five games. But he initially came to Boise State as a center and has often worked there in practices. A man of few words, Larson said playing center “is more in my wheelhouse.”
When Hampton was injured last season, Larson started for him in road wins at BYU and San Diego State in October. Running back Alexander Mattison rushed for 118 and 128 yards, respectively, two of his top three most productive games of the season.
“It’s not like we’re dealing with a position change. ... Those two games he started for Mason were very pivotal, and we ran the ball well in both,” Bedell said.
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin noted that Larson was chosen as the team’s player of the game for the BYU win.
“I like the fact he’s a tough guy. He’s a smart guy. He understands the demands of playing center, how much we’re asking,” Harsin said. “Some guys don’t always enjoy that, like ‘You’re best at this, but you don’t enjoy doing it.’ I think he enjoys making the calls, being in that position.”
Underneath the gruff exterior, Larson has embraced some of the fun that comes with being part of an offensive line that will thrive or fail depending on chemistry. Two years ago, Larson grew a rat tail during his redshirt freshman season. Quickly, his nickname became “Rat.” Not long after, he got a tattoo of a rat on the inside of his right wrist.
If he needs anyone to keep him humble, the guy who will line up to his left for hundreds of snaps this fall will do it — his roommate and best friend, left guard John Molchon.
“He can get under Garrett’s skin faster than anybody you’ve ever seen,” Bedell said.
Molchon is not a big movie fan, but Larson is, so when the center makes a reference, the guard pretends to get it, then makes fun of it. He’ll ask “dumb questions” about them. Then there’s the unique pairing of the kid from Fruitland and the Las Vegas native who played at a private school.
“Just look at him. ... That wasn’t a huge thing at my school,” Molchon said with a laugh.
With the likes of Hampton, Marcus Henry and Matt Paradis preceding him, Larson hopes to continue to be an anchor for what Boise State hopes to be an improved offensive line. And there’s good reason for that.
“I have a ton of trust in him. He has that experience now,” Molchon said. “... He’s really gritty and he’s really tough. No matter what it is, he does a really good job staying strong in the middle.”