It was so perfectly Boise State, a pure distillation of what makes the program unique in one shot.
John Ojukwu, a sophomore offensive tackle who turned himself from a 200-pound prospect to 300-pound starter in three years, stood on the banks of the Boise River with a massive grin.
In his hands, a massive fish — a steelhead he caught not 100 yards from the Broncos’ football facility. Ojukwu and junior tackle Kole Bailey went and cast a few lines Tuesday, a routine they have during fall camp, too. Ojukwu assumed all the lunkers were gone, but wound up with the biggest one he’s ever caught.
“I didn’t know there was any more left, I thought everybody had fished them all out,” Ojukwu said. “I got him on the line, thought the current was a little strong, thought it was probably a smaller fish, then I saw him rolling. It was crazy.”
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Bailey, a Twin Falls native, was giving tips as Ojukwu tried to reel in what he called “a monster.” Other teammates have joined the pair on their excursions, but he and Bailey are the most frequent anglers.
“In the moment I was freaking out a little bit, so he helped me stay calm, stay in the moment,” Ojukwu said.
Ojukwu, a Boise High graduate, said he fished regularly growing up but drifted away from the pastime until picking it back up a year or so ago. He’s so back into it, he’s got his own tricks of the trade — he blacked out his lure in the photo Bailey took of him holding his catch, which he soon released. He didn’t bring anything to weigh or measure the fish.
“I wasn’t ready for a fish that big,” he said.
The guy on the other end of the line wasn’t exactly a minnow, as Ojukwu said he’s put on about 10 pounds since last season, now measuring in at 6-foot-6, 305 pounds. He’s well known for being the dairy king of the team, knocking down thousands of calories to get himself noticed as a recruit. He still aims for a gallon of milk a day.
“I now know what to work in the weight room harder. On Saturdays and other off days, I’ll get in extra reps on the specifics I know I need to get better,” Ojukwu said.
Last season, Ojukwu made his Boise State debut as a redshirt freshman, stepping into a starting role the final seven games. Now having the job on the right side as his to lose, he knows what it means to be relied upon.
With momentum from last season, plus some good fortune on the river, Ojukwu’s season is off to a great start.
The other four linemen having started at least 10 games last season, and with plenty of experience under his belt, Ojukwu hopes the Broncos can hit the ground running, unlike the last two years.
“I try to be ready every week, so when they threw me in, I knew I was going to be ready — every week I was like ‘keep my spot, keep my spot, keep on working harder,’ ” Ojuwku said. “... I always have more to learn, but I felt more comfortable toward the end of the year.”