If senior quarterback Brett Rypien’s legacy at Boise State is more about what has happened privately inside the football team’s facilities than what’s happened under the stadium lights, he’s good with that.
He’ll be remembered as a rare three-time captain, as someone who stepped into what could have been an overwhelming role as a true freshman and found immediate success, as an example of how to handle a turbulent, one-year stretch that might have unraveled someone else.
That matters most to him.
“I don’t try to focus on what … the outside world would think,” he said, “but more so what the people inside this program will remember me as and how I can leave my mark for the young guys to continue the excellence that we’ve had here.”
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Still, he wants more as the Broncos begin the 2018 season Saturday at Troy (4 p.m. MT, ESPNEWS).
Grant Hedrick won the Fiesta Bowl in 2014. Kellen Moore put the Broncos in the national championship conversation from 2008 to 2011. Jared Zabransky shook off a junior year similar to Rypien’s to lead an undefeated season in 2006. Ryan Dinwiddie engineered the first Top 25 season in school history in 2002. Bart Hendricks sparked the Broncos to their first two conference titles as an FBS program in 1999-2000.
Those accomplishments loom over everyone who plays quarterback at Boise State — both inside the program, where “Tradition of Excellence” is on the wall in the quarterbacks room — and in public, where expectations border on perfection.
Rypien, who was an All-Mountain West first-teamer as a freshman and sophomore and a Mountain West champion as a junior, will try to become the first Boise State quarterback to win consecutive Mountain West titles — a crown that has been frustratingly difficult for the Broncos to earn since joining the league in 2011.
He also has his sights set on a New Year’s Six bowl berth, an achievement that slipped through the Broncos’ fingers during Rypien’s sophomore year when they started 7-0 and were ranked No. 13 before losing at Wyoming.
“Winning another championship would be awesome,” he said.
He hesitates to think about that, though.
If 36 starts at Boise State have taught him anything, it’s not to look beyond the immediate task. That was a problem in 2016. Overconfidence, he said, can slip into your mind without you even noticing.
The late-season losses that year — the Broncos finished 10-3 — rank as his biggest disappointment.
“Every failure that I’ve had here I think has made me better,” he said. “… You let just one little thing slip, that you don’t even realize at the time, and it kind of shows up in games. It’s just having a constant focus and a constant drive. It’s hard to do.”
Rypien, who will graduate with a business degree in December, has the personality to operate that way — and the leadership ability to bring the rest of the Broncos with him. Those are his greatest qualities, surpassing the physical skills that made him a four-star recruit out of Spokane, Wash., and the 2015 Mountain West Freshman of the Year.
Like Zabransky, Rypien has endured stiff criticism while posting an excellent overall record (27-9) and was forced to share playing time with his backup during his junior year.
Rypien and Zabransky have talked about the pressures of playing quarterback at Boise State — part of a network of Boise State QBs dating to Hendricks that Rypien has tapped into for advice and support.
Zabransky used the lessons of his junior year — including surprising competition for his job from Taylor Tharp — to lead the Broncos to their first Fiesta Bowl as a senior in 2006.
Rypien also seems poised to deliver his best performance in his last year.
“Whether he did great in the past or poorly at times, it’s all experiences, and he’s able to take all of those and put it into this senior year,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “… He’s just in a good mental state right now, so it’s exciting.”
Rypien unexpectedly became the Broncos’ quarterback in 2015 as a true freshman, after arriving a semester early. He replaced the injured Ryan Finley and went 7-3 as a starter. The Broncos won at Virginia in Rypien’s first start and earned a Poinsettia Bowl trophy but also lost back-to-back home games.
He faced huge expectations in 2016 and was justifying them until that loss in Laramie and a late-season funk that contributed to losses to Air Force and Baylor.
And then his career went haywire in September 2017, when senior backup Montell Cozart finished the season-opening win against Troy, Rypien was knocked out of the Washington State game with a head injury and the Broncos got embarrassed at home by Virginia in his return to action two weeks later.
Coaches stood by Rypien, even as Cozart’s role increased. And Rypien rewarded them by throwing 16 touchdown passes against four interceptions as the Broncos won nine of their final 10 games, beat Fresno State in the Mountain West title game, stunned Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl and completed their first Top 25 season since 2014.
“Everything kind of blew up in my face,” Rypien said, “… and I was able to finish as strong as I ever have. Whatever happens this year, I’ll be ready for it.”
It’s been that way throughout his football life — preparation, far more than the result, is within a player’s control. So Rypien directed player-run practices beginning in seventh grade. He led film sessions with his high school teammates.
With three years as the offensive leader at Boise State, he’s now organized player-run practices nine of the past 10 offseasons. And he’s still doing video work with teammates, meeting with the quarterbacks earlier this week.
“He’s a coach — that’s what he is,” said Tim Rypien, Brett’s dad and his coach in junior high and part of high school. “He has a real burning desire to win, that’s the thing that stands out about Brett. It’s real serious business.”
That can become a hindrance, if you let it, Tim says. Brett has admitted to overthinking his sophomore year, so Tim sent him a text earlier this week with a message he wanted to make sure his son got before Saturday.
“Trust your preparation, trust your instincts and go play football,” Tim told him.
Simple advice that sums up how Rypien is approaching his senior moment.
He’s done the work. He’s fought through the failures. He knows he, and this Broncos team, can succeed.
It’s time to find out where that leads — and, likely, how the quarterback who will throw more passes than any Bronco other than Moore will be remembered.
Outside the program, anyway.