Dan Paul’s weight room prowess at Boise State was the stuff of legends.
Whether it was the bench press, squats or hang cleans, Paul was usually near the top of the leaderboard, according to former teammate Tommy Smith.
Smith said he used to brag about Paul’s vertical jump: 40 inches, despite Paul’s 255-pound frame.
What Smith remembers most fondly of all about Paul, however, is his signature smile.
Paul, the former Boise State fullback and linebacker who played for the Broncos from 2008 to 2012, has died, Boise State spokesman Joe Nickell confirmed to the Idaho Statesman on Thursday. He was 30.
“I don’t think there was a person on our team that didn’t like Dan. ... He always had a smile,” Smith said. “He could always light up a room.”
The Statesman spoke with Dan Paul’s siblings, Joey Paul and Margaret Estrada, on Saturday. An autopsy on Dan was inconclusive, they said, and final results might not be available for 12 weeks. Dan died early Wednesday morning in his sleep; Joey saw his brother Tuesday and said there were no warning signs.
“We have zero idea,” Estrada told the Statesman in a phone interview. “And that’s what’s so hard.”
Paul scored four touchdowns in his Boise State career and helped win the 2010 Fiesta Bowl with the Broncos. The Broncos had a combined 49-4 record in his four seasons. He missed the 2011 season with a groin injury but came back as a senior and caught a touchdown pass against San Diego State.
“It was nice to be able to see him come back his senior year and play,” former teammate J.C. Percy told the Statesman. “It was nice to be able to see him get some reps on the field.”
Paul had a memorable performance against Nevada in 2009, when he caught three passes for 22 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 44-33 victory over the Wolf Pack.
Paul’s career day meant a great deal to his teammates. As a fullback, Paul spent most of his snaps as a blocker. He held several team records in the weight room, Smith said, and deserved his day of recognition.
“Everybody was just excited for him because of all the work he put in and all the work he had done for other teammates,” Smith said. “Everyone was just excited for Dan.”
Paul joined the Broncos in January 2008 as a grayshirt linebacker out of Gresham, Oregon. He played on special teams as a true freshman and switched to fullback, where he became the starter late in the 2009 season because of Richie Brockel’s injury.
“Whatever I can do for this offense is what I want to do,” Paul said in a 2012 interview with the Statesman. “What I most enjoy is getting those big blocks and watching (tailback) D.J. (Harper) break for the end zone, or Doug Martin in the past. That’s where I get the joy in football.”
Paul and Smith, a linebacker, went against each other frequently in practice. Smith remembers that even on the worst days, Paul was always lifting people up.
“He was a good person and lived a good life,” Smith said. “He will truly be missed.”
In a text message to the Statesman, former Boise State teammate Jarrell Root referred to Paul as “my brother.”
“He was ... one of the most genuine people that you could ever meet,” Root said. “He was and is a great guy that affected a lot of people in the (Treasure Valley) for the better.”
This is not the first death the Boise State football program has gone through in recent months. Paul was teammates with running back Jack Fields, who was shot and killed after stabbing a deputy in Georgia last November.