Bronco Beat

Concussions have sidelined two key Boise State football players this season

Boise State senior safety Darian Thompson — a two-time defensive MVP of the team and All-Mountain West pick — will return to the lineup for the Dec. 23 Poinsettia Bowl against Northern Illinois.

He missed the final two regular-season games, against Air Force and San Jose State, because of concussion symptoms that lingered after the New Mexico game. The Broncos went 1-1 in those games.

Sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols, the team’s offensive MVP, missed the Utah State game in October while dealing with a concussion of his own sustained the week before against Colorado State. The Broncos lost their only game without McNichols.

Concussions are one of the hottest topics in football and likely will generate even more discussion after the release of the movie “Concussion” later this month.

But Thompson and McNichols say they aren’t overly concerned about the effects of the hits to the head.

“You do play the game of football,” Thompson said. “It’s physical and things like that happen. When you do get one, it’s a long process.”

Thompson had experienced a concussion before. After the New Mexico game, he spoke to the media because he hadn’t reported his symptoms to the training staff yet.

“Usually when I get dinged, it wears off,” he said. “It’s really no big deal. But the next day, it was still kind of lingering around.”

McNichols’ injury was more obvious. He took a wicked helmet-to-helmet hit at the goal line and was down for a while.

He changed helmets after the concussion. He now wears the Riddell SpeedFlex, which has the U-shaped imprint on the top front. A handful of Broncos wear the helmet, which was engineered with flexibility in the shell. It’s one of 14 five-star helmets in the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings system. The SpeedFlex has the third-highest rating.

“The scariest thing is you just don’t know when those symptoms are actually going to go away,” McNichols said.

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Thompson was named an honorable-mention All-American by on Thursday.

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The Broncos have finals next week and coaches have been on the road recruiting the past two weeks, delaying full-scale preparation for Northern Illinois.

“We’re student-athletes,” junior safety Chanceller James said. “These two weeks are key to us finishing our mission, (part of) our goal — that’s having academic excellence. We’re also athletes, smart athletes. We need to get in there in the film room.”