Boise State senior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes and his parents noted the giant banners celebrating some of the Broncos’ best players on the east exterior of Albertsons Stadium when he was on a recruiting visit.
“We said that’d be cool if I got up there,” Williams-Rhodes said, “so that was kind of a goal coming in.”
Williams-Rhodes attained that goal this year. Boise State unveiled its four player banners for 2015 over the past four days. Work to hang them began Tuesday and likely will be completed this week.
The banner tradition started in 2009.
“It’s a very big deal,” said Spencer Jahn, the director of marketing and promotions. “It’s kind of used as a reward for the players who get to be put up on it.”
This year’s honorees: Williams-Rhodes (with the program characteristic “conviction”), cornerback Donte Deayon (relentless), center Marcus Henry (toughness) and safety Darian Thompson (discipline). All four are seniors.
The banners are 20 feet wide and 25 feet tall. They feature a portrait of each player over the top of the view of the stadium from the tunnel, with a shroud of smoke in between. The “coming out of the tunnel” theme is repeated on other promotional items this year, such as the schedule magnet and posters.
NEWS AND NOTES
• Four true freshmen are competing for immediate playing time at cornerback, where the Broncos only have two players with game experience (starters Deayon and Jonathan Moxey). Darreon Jackson, recruited as a safety, has joined Tyler Horton, Donzale Roddie and Ladarryl Blair in the cornerback group. Horton and Jackson have impressed defensive backs coach Julius Brown early in camp. “They are a tight-knit group and that’s good to see,” Brown said. “Some guys are going to have a chance to play, some guys are going to have to redshirt. But they are all helping each other out and it’s pretty neat to watch.”
• Williams-Rhodes is ranked as the No. 21 “freak” in college football byBruce Feldman of FoxSports.com
. He is the smallest man on the list at 5-foot-6, 173 pounds and one of the quickest, but he also squatted 500 pounds three times.
Safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner arrived at Boise State in January 2014 as perhaps the most hyped recruit in school history.
Even he thought he could make a smooth transition to college football.
“I got humbled,” he said.
Coaches eased Sumner-Gardner into action during his true freshman season. They withheld him from the opener against Ole Miss and limited him to occasional series on defense in the remaining 13 games.
As he prepares for a likely starting job as a sophomore, Sumner-Gardner appreciates the way he was handled last year. He was a top-100 recruit out of West Mesquite (Texas) High.
“I just thank all of the coaches for getting me used to the game instead of just throwing me in there, just a hotheaded true freshman,” said Sumner-Gardner, a former Texas A&M commit who followed defensive coordinator Marcel Yates to Boise State. “But now I’m more calm and more relaxed.”
Sumner-Gardner, who made 19 tackles last season, turned a corner in spring ball when he moved into the first-team role. Junior Chanceller James, the other candidate for the job, was out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and now is playing nickel.
The game slowed down, Sumner-Gardner said, and he learned the playbook to the point that he could rely on instincts. Last year, he said, he was on the field thinking about the gravity of where he was.
“I feel like I can play well on this level now,” he said.
So do his coaches.
“He’s had a tremendous summer,” said Brown, the defensive backs coach. “He’s off to a great start in fall camp, so we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do.”
BRONCOS IN THE NFL: WR AUSTIN PETTIS
Austin Pettis seemingly was on his way to a solid NFL career until he was cut by the St. Louis Rams mid-season last year.
Now Pettis, who has 107 catches and nine touchdowns in four pro seasons, is trying to rebuild his career with the San Diego Chargers. He has performed well in training camp, according to Chargers.com.
Pettis was cut last October. He signed with the Chargers in January.
“Every year you come in knowing they’re always looking for someone to take your spot unless you earn it,” Pettis told Chargers.com. “That was my goal every year in St. Louis, and it’s definitely my goal here.”
Pettis has a good relationship with backup quarterback Kellen Clemens, who formerly played in St. Louis. That could help him make plays in camp and preseason games.
“I know Austin real well obviously having played with him in St. Louis,” Clemens told Chargers.com. “He brings a lot to the table as a receiver. He is getting a good opportunity here. He is a guy who can play, has great range and is smart. Hopefully he goes out this preseason and tears it up. ... I was recruiting him telling him to come out. I was happy and excited when we signed him because I knew what he brings to the table. So I was excited for him, but also excited for us.”
ESPN lists Pettis as a third-string wide receiver right now. He’ll get a chance to show what he can do in game situations Thursday when the Chargers open preseason play against the Cowboys.
“I’m very excited,” Pettis told Chargers.com. “I know I can play this game, and it’s been a while since I’ve been able to put a real jersey on, get out there and go play against another team. It’s going to be real nice to have a lot of my family and friends there being so close to home, so it should be pretty comfortable for me. I’m just excited to go out there and be back where I feel like I belong.”