Boise State Football

From a ‘hefty fella’ to ‘strong as a stinking ox’: The transformation of a BSU nose tackle

Boise State nose tackle Keeghan Freeborn redshirted last season as he made the transition from the offensive lineman in high school to the defensive line.
Boise State nose tackle Keeghan Freeborn redshirted last season as he made the transition from the offensive lineman in high school to the defensive line. doswald@idahostatesman.com

Making a successful transition from high school to FBS college football is a big challenge. Add in a position change from offense to defense and that transition can start to feel downright overwhelming.

Just ask Keeghan Freeborn.

The 6-foot-1, 305-pound Rocky Mountain High graduate joined the Boise State football team in 2018 as the No. 4 prospect in the state following four dominant seasons on the Grizzlies’ offensive line. Freeborn has since traded his O-line roots for a spot on the Broncos’ defensive line at nose tackle.

He hasn’t played in a meaningful game of football in nearly two years, but that could change this fall.

“Keeghan had a phenomenal summer,” Boise State defensive line coach Spencer Danielson said. “And he’s as strong as a stinking ox.”

Freeborn redshirted in 2018 to give him ample time to learn the nuances of his new position and heal a lingering ankle injury he sustained in his final season at Rocky Mountain. He embraced the extra year as an opportunity to grow his knowledge of the game and soak up the example of veteran leaders such as David Moa, Sontatane Lui and Chase Hatada.

“It was great, to be honest. It’s fun to get the chance to get back to the bottom and realize you have people to learn from now that are above you and can help you grow,” Freeborn told the Idaho Statesman on Wednesday. “There’s kind of a cap that you get to in high school. Then you get to the next level, and you realize you can keep growing and learning from the older guys as you go. More opportunities open.”

Freeborn is one of four players listed at nose tackle on Boise State’s 2019 roster, and he is the only one who has yet to play in a game. His coaches and teammates have emphasized that the harder he goes in practice, the easier things will seem when he finally takes the field in a Boise State uniform.

“You want to practice harder so when you get in the game, it’s nothing,” Freeborn said. “That’s one thing that a lot of the older guys said is that when you actually get into the game, you realize it isn’t that hard at all. It should be very simple if you’ve worked your hardest and done everything you could (in practice).”

Freeborn was already a dedicated weightlifter in high school and also made the heavyweight state championship match in wrestling as a junior. The biggest challenge for the two-time All-Idaho first-teamer has been increasing his speed and mobility.

“It’s hard to go from O-line when you’re a big, hefty fella,” said Freeborn, who has slimmed down from 325 pounds. “But I’m definitely working on that. It’s one of my big things I’ve got to get better (on) is my speed and quickness.”

Based on appearance alone — Danielson describes Freeborn as a “frame door” — he has already drawn comparisons to Boise State great Chase Baker. Freeborn even wears Baker’s No. 97.

And Boise State fans will get the next four years to find out exactly what kind of player Freeborn can become.

Climb Table Rock with the Broncos

Fans can join the Boise State football team on a hike to the top of Table Rock on Sunday.

The team will begin the climb at the base of the trail near the Old Idaho Penitentiary at 9:30 a.m. Fans also have the option of meeting the team at the top of Table Rock, with players arriving as early as 9:45 a.m. and staying until 10:45 a.m.

The next opportunity to see the Broncos in action will be Saturday, Aug. 24, at the annual Fall Fan Fest. The event begins at 2 p.m. at Albertsons Stadium and is free to the public. Autographs and access to The Blue will take place following the open practice.

Ostrander receives another honor

Boise State track legend Allie Ostrander was named the Mountain West Female Athlete of the Year on Thursday.

The three-time national champion in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase is the only student-athlete, male or female, to win the award three times.

“We are so proud of Allie,” Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey said in a press release. “Everything she accomplished over the course of her Bronco career — both in competition and in the classroom — is amazing.”

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