Putting 100 football players and coaches on the field at the same time during fall camp can feel a little claustrophobic. Even more so in the locker room.
But that’s nothing compared to when Tony Lashley comes home.
The Boise State senior linebacker, tired from practice, is greeted by his wife, Jessica, their five children and two dogs. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It makes me see the light in every situation, like there’s nothing you can’t do,” Lashley said. “When I’m here, I’m locked in on football. My family, my wife and my kids are my motivation.”
Lashley, a graduate transfer from the University of Idaho this summer, has been married for nearly five years. Jessica already had two children, and the family has since added three — most recently a son born in May.
“For me, I think school and football is enough. I don’t know how he does it,” sophomore linebacker Riley Whimpey said.
When there are breaks in the fall camp schedule, Lashley said he will run home and spend a little time with the kids. Most are still awake when he gets home in the evening, so there’s a little time then. He credits Jessica for being “a soldier” because he isn’t able to be home much in the fall.
“She needs help sometimes, so I have to go home and be reasonable, understanding about that,” Lashley said. “I don’t always come home in a good mood. She understands it’s football, not everything’s always flowers. It’s much more rough on her, I think this year, with the 3-month-old.”
His home life already makes Lashley one of the most interesting players on the Broncos’ roster, but considering where he transferred from and what his role could be, he’s a fascinating subject.
Lashley admits he was nervous coming to Boise, but was quickly embraced. He said the coaching staff made extra certain his family would be happy here. Even though he left the Vandals for their historic in-state rival, he heard “nothing malicious.”
“I don’t know much about the rivalry,” Lashley said. “I had just seen it as a great program in the state. I had my eye on this program for a while. I knew it was a smart decision, a great decision for my family and my wife.”
In Lashley, Boise State added a veteran who had 230 tackles the past two seasons and was a first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection as a junior. With Boise State losing Leighton Vander Esch to the NFL and with Idaho moving down to the Football Championship Subdivision, it was good timing for Lashley and the Broncos.
“Getting a guy to come in that has that experience with some good production was important,” defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “And he was a guy that wanted to be here really, really bad. He knew (because) we lost Leighton there would be some opportunity, but that we also have a lot of capable guys and he still wanted to be here.”
In fact, it was Vander Esch’s production at weakside linebacker that was a major factor in Lashley’s interest.
“These coaches will pour their heart and soul into me,” Lashley said. “Their technique and all that stuff was a beautiful thing to watch and I wanted to be a part of that.”
So far, Lashley has primarily focused on playing middle linebacker, where junior Tyson Maeva started 13 games last season. Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said Lashley’s versatility was another plus because he can fit in at more than one spot.
“That’s what I wanted to do when I made the decision, is push myself to compete,” Lashley said. “What better place to compete than here, at the top level? Competing for conference titles and bowl games every year.
“Adapting to this culture (and) what it feels like to be a winner all the time, that’s what I’m loving about it.”
Lashley will at least bring leadership and depth to the linebacker group this fall and potentially make an impact like fellow Kansas City native Montell Cozart did last season for the offense.
There will also be the added appeal of seeing an ex-Vandal suiting up as a Bronco.
“There’s a first time for everything,” Avalos said. “We’re excited to see him put on that blue and orange.”