Mike Godwin understands what it means to be, as he says, a bit of a novelty. Then his team coming to Boise State’s blue turf makes perfect sense.
Godwin is the head coach at Mount Boucherie Secondary in Kelowna, British Columbia. The Bears made their first trip to Boise State’s team camp this week, joining 17 other high schools for drills led by current Bronco players and coaches.
“The usual camp we go to is at a high school, we might stop by a college stadium on the way home, but to play on that field, stay in the dorms instead of a gym floor, interact with a program like Boise State’s, it’s exciting for our guys,” Godwin said.
The Bears have been regular attendees at the Gold Beach camp on the southwest Oregon coast, where they found a close bond with a local team — Capital High. When the opportunity to come to Boise State arose, it was a no-brainer.
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“They’d set up this big outdoor kitchen and have had our team over for dinner,” Godwin said. “They’re great people. We had to sing our national anthem before dinner, just had a lot of fun. It showed what kind of a welcome we’d get in Boise.”
Boise State’s team camp concludes Saturday, and includes team competitions under the lights Friday night. Approximately 1,200 high school players are on hand, including 52 from Mount Boucherie, and the squad from Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High. Assistant coach Bobby Sanchez tweeted photos of the Gaels in town Thursday. The team was ranked No. 1 in the nation last season by USA Today.
On the Broncos’ never-ending recruiting calendar, the two-week camp window is vital. Some of Boise State’s coaches attended regional camps, including head coach Bryan Harsin at California’s Prime Time Polynesian Camp. Boise State started its hosting window June 5 with a youth camp for ages 6-13, then held its elite individual camp last weekend. A flurry of offers came out of that camp, including quarterback Zach Wilson, who committed Monday.
Many of the players currently on Boise State’s roster were identified at the camp, including sophomore offensive lineman John Molchon, who was offered in 2014 after coming to the elite camp from his hometown of Las Vegas.
The face of the camp system could change next year with new NCAA rules. High school coaches cannot work or speak at the camps, a move met with disdain by Alabama coach Nick Saban. Players can now take official visits in April of their junior year, instead of the previous earliest being September of their senior year. That could accelerate the process for a school like Boise State that may wait to offer until June, when it sees the recruit in person. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “We needed to clean up the camp environment, and this legislation does that.”
“Camp is still the best way to be around the kids anyway, and we push them to do that so we can see them play,” Boise State associate athletic director for football Brad Larrondo said. “Those are all questions we still need to figure out and answer. Sometimes you like them to visit closer to signing day or come when they can see the game environment.”
For plenty of schools, the team camps serve as more than a chance for players to catch the eye of recruiters: it’s all about bonding.
“Our kids were kind of deer in the headlights the first time we went to the States, they learned some lessons that at times were tough, but going against some good teams eventually built up their confidence,” Godwin said. “The other teams see we aren’t just about hockey.”