He is already the top sack artist in Mountain West Conference history and he’s closing in on a couple of longstanding Boise State records, but defensive end Curtis Weaver isn’t much of a football historian.
He wasn’t aware he broke the Mountain West career sacks record until a staff member mentioned it to him in the final 2 minutes of the Broncos’ win Saturday at UNLV.
Weaver’s third sack in Las Vegas gave him 29.5 in his career and a national-best nine on the season, which leaves him 11 shy of tying former Boise State defensive end Chris Wing’s single-season record.
He has even farther to go to match Erik Helgeson’s career record of 54.5 sacks, but the only reason he’s aware of the two pass rushers ahead of him in the Broncos’ record books is that director of sports performance Jeff Pitman brings them up on almost a daily basis.
“He hits me with that all the time, but that’s probably an unbreakable record,” Weaver said Wednesday. “But he keeps telling me to keep going.”
While Weaver (6-foot-3, 265 pounds) is more focused on the here and now, his coach, Bryan Harsin, is acutely aware of the two most prolific edge rushers in Boise State history. Harsin grew up a fan of the Broncos and Helgeson was one of his favorite players.
“That guy, what I remember when I was younger, that was the best football player I had ever seen,” Harsin said. “He was that tough, kind of ‘Bad A’ dude. Those were the kind of guys you gravitated toward because you wanted to be like that.”
Bloody noses and snot bubbles come to mind when Harsin recalls Helgeson’s playing style, but Helgeson’s dream early in his football career was to be a running back. The Minnesota native even wore former Vikings running back Chuck Foreman’s No. 44 jersey under his pads for much of his career, but he didn’t see many carries.
Helgeson (1986-90) walked on at Boise State and bounced around between inside and outside linebacker and spent time as a linebacker-safety hybrid. When the team moved him to defensive end the spring before his redshirt freshman season, he thought the coaches were trying to get rid of him. Instead, they put him in a position where his innate aggression could thrive.
“You had to play that way to survive, coming from a small school. You had to be the aggressor or you’d get beat up,” said Helgeson, who played at Bishop Kelly High. “It didn’t take long to get used to the physicality because football is football. It was just about learning to use leverage and getting lower than the offensive tackle.”
Helgeson was a three-time All-Big Sky Conference pick and, as a senior in 1990, he was named an All-American by five organizations. He remembers a moment in practice that year when former coach Skip Hall yelled at his defensive coordinator to get Helgeson off the field because he was getting to the quarterback so often the offense couldn’t run a play.
Helgeson’s 19.5 sacks in 1988 rank No. 2 on Boise State’s single-season list and his 17.5 the next season are No. 3. He also owns the Broncos’ career tackles-for-loss mark with 68.5.
“I never thought I was a great pass rusher,” said Helgeson, who is now an agency representative at Westcor Land Title Insurance in Boise. “I thought I had natural skills, and I played with a lot of really good people who made me look good.”
In Weaver, Helgeson does see a great pass rusher, who is destined for the NFL.
“All good rush ends have power and speed, but he’s just able to turn that corner and turn it tightly,” Helgeson said. “He’s just a big kid, and that’s what I love about him. He’s playing a man’s game with a care-free attitude, and he loves what he’s doing.”
Wing (1994-96) agrees with Helgeson that Weaver will be playing on Sundays.
“He’s got all the tools. He doesn’t always rush, but when he rushes he’s pretty effective,” Wing said. “He’s just dynamic, he’s a smart football player, he’s very athletic and he has the size. He’s obviously going to get drafted, in my opinion, and he’s just fun to watch.”
Wing was a member of Boise State’s 1994 team, which made it to the I-AA national championship game. He also was a member of the Broncos’ first season as a I-A program, and it was during that tumultuous 1996 campaign that he set the team’s single-season sack record with 20.
While Harsin watched from the stands as Helgeson made history, he was a teammate of Wing’s and said their relationship wasn’t always a loving one.
“In practice, quarterbacks weren’t live, and every time I was back there on the scout team I was live,” Harsin said. “In a really good way, he was that crazy teammate on the defensive side of the ball that you love to be around. You want that guy on your team. He brings energy.”
Wing remembers those days differently. He said his coaches would have been all over him if he was constantly hitting the quarterback in practice, but he does remember the spring game his senior year, which was particularly brutal on Harsin.
“We must have hit him 10 times. I know one series we hit him three times in a row,” said Wing, who is now an account executive at Lamar Advertising in Boise. “He had a tough go that day, so I think he remembers that. Or he might not remember it because he got hit so much.”
Whether he was getting hit by him or watching Wing sack another unsuspecting quarterback, Harsin will never forget his teammate’s reaction to putting a passer on the ground.
“When he got a sack, that was the best thing that’s ever happened in his life in that moment,” Harsin said. “It was pure absolute joy and enthusiasm, and it was felt by the team. When you’re around a guy like that, it’s infectious.”
Just like he did last year when former quarterback Brett Rypien set the Mountain West record for career passing yards, Harsin acknowledged Weaver’s record in a team meeting.
“Those things don’t go unnoticed,” Harsin said. “That’s an accomplishment for the team, and what Curtis has done is prepare himself every single week to go out there and do that. ... It doesn’t just come from his talent. It comes from his motor and his hard work, and that’s what (Helgeson and Wing) had, too.”
HAWAII AT NO. 14 BOISE STATE
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPN2 (Roy Philpott, Kelly Stouffer, Lauren Sisler)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: Boise State 5-0 overall, 2-0 Mountain West; Hawaii is 4-1, 1-0
Series: Boise State leads 12-3 (last meeting: Boise State won 52-16 on Nov. 12, 2016, at Hawaii)
Vegas line: Boise State by 12
Weather: 63 degrees, mostly sunny, 5-10 mph wind