Boise, Idaho, is a city set apart.
No really, the "City of Trees," as it is known, sits 346 miles northwest of Salt Lake City, 430 miles southeast of Portland, Ore., 504 miles even farther southeast from Seattle and 635 miles due north of Las Vegas.
The urban isolation makes for a unique way of life, and the people of the Boise area don't seem to be complaining or apologizing for it. However, Boise itself has become a small city full of many of the same advantages cities of much larger size enjoy.
Still, with all it has going for it, many people outside of the northwest United States would probably have a hard time pinpointing the location of Boise on a map.
That is changing.
Over the last three decades, the rise of Boise State football has helped draw more attention to the once overlooked oasis in southwest Idaho. Many people who would have otherwise never given a second thought to its location, have at least stopped thinking it was in Iowa.
The Broncos' historic rise on the field has brought attention, intrigue and the spotlight to a people, a state, a city and a school and has made it impossible to ignore.
With that in mind, let's look at some of the greatest off-the-field moments that helped create the phenomenon known as Bronco football.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,
When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.
The decision to make the big jump had to be a difficult one for the Boise State administration. Already a very successful program at the Division I-AA level, Boise State decided to take its game to the highest level in 1996.
In that year, the Broncos became members of the Big West Conference; yes, in those days, the Big West actually had football, and many fans were not happy to see the jump.
It seemed like those same critics were right early on, as the Broncos suffered through an extremely disappointing first season in Division I-A, now known as the FBS.
As painful as it was, Boise State went 2-10 that season and even lost to Idaho, 64-19, in the last game of the year.
In hindsight, however, this was one of the best decisions Boise State ever made. It may have ended up being a difficult climb, but it one worth climbing nonetheless.
Without making the choice to rise in 1996, the Broncos might still be facing teams like Idaho State, Eastern Washington and Montana State in regional matchups.
Instead, the foresight to get bigger and better has helped to produce national games against teams like Georgia, Virginia Tech, Oregon and Washington.
H.P. Lovecraft said it best when he wrote; "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."
The Boise State leaders set aside the fear and the naysayers and dove into the unknown in 1996. It may have been difficult, but nothing great is ever achieved without some blood, sweat, tears and a measure of failure.
It is the refusal to remain in failure that defines greatness.
Pokey Allen was the head coach for Boise State football from 1993 to 1996. Before that, he was the head coach at Portland State for seven seasons.
While his name has faded with the years, those who knew him and knew of him will never forget. His smile, attitude and determination inspired all of those around him.
Pokey Allen had a measure of success with his Boise State teams on the field, but his most important lessons taught were probably away from the game.
Yes, Allen took the 1994 Broncos to a national title game. Yes, Allen coached his team to one of the biggest upset victories in school history when Boise State shocked heavily favored Marshall, 28-24, in the semifinals that same season.
But, it was the battle he lost that set in perspective the things that are most important.
Just days after the loss in the Division I-AA national championship game, Allen was diagnosed with cancer. He would then go on to face months of treatment for the disease, but returned the following season to coach his team, despite the high likelihood the cancer would come back.
Through it all, however, he never stopped smiling, and he never gave up.
Tom Mason filled in for Pokey for most of the 1996 season as Allen continued to battle cancer. It was the first year in Division I-A and certainly not the start anyone wanted. However, it was the hand that was dealt, and Allen never seemed to complain.
Pokey was able to coach his team the last two games of the season, but passed away in the weeks following. On December 30, 1996, Pokey Allen went home. But, he will always have a place in the hearts of many Boise State fans.
Boise State is known for a lot of things, but one of the most identifiable elements has to be the famous blue turf.
Hated by some, loved by many, the turf in Bronco Stadium has become a celebrity all by itself. People all around the globe know about the blue field, and it has become a source of pride for the university.
Love it or hate it, it's here to stay.
However, Bronco Stadium wasn't always blue. Until 1986, the stadium had the same green turf that other stadiums had. In that year, former athletic director Gene Bleymaier came up with the idea of the blue field to draw attention to the team and the school.
Bleymaier didn't want to spend the cash to replace the field and have it make no difference. Instead, he wanted to make a splash, no pun intended. OK, intended.
What came from the decision to go blue has been nothing but legendary.
"The Blue" as it is now known, is a symbol for Bronco football and the community. As previously mentioned, it is also hated by many. However, you have to believe if the Broncos weren't winning all the time, none of those same critics would even care.
Kellen Moore is the epitome of Boise State football. He was undersized, overlooked and underestimated by most of the college football world.
However, as history would prove, Moore and Boise State can't be ignored for long.
A product of Prosser, Wash., Kellen was not highly recruited out of high school. In fact, Eastern Washington was the only real competition for Boise State.
Even the Broncos coaching staff was not completely sold on Moore, and some bargaining and begging took place to land him a scholarship spot.
Or, so the legend goes.
In 2007, when Moore put pen to paper and signed his letter of intent (LOI) to be a Bronco, it began a seemingly mythical story of one of the most prolific passers in college football history.
In 2008, Moore would become a starter as a redshirt freshman and go on to rack up 50 wins in four seasons—a record that will probably stand for a long time to come.
The Broncos took a chance on an underdog, and the underdog bit the college football world in the seat of the pants.
What remains are teeth marks that can't be removed by any known process.
Boise State had a good football team in 2005. The head coach was Dan Hawkins, and the Broncos went 9-4, but lost a close game to Boston College in the MPC Computers Bowl to finish off the year.
Fast forward one season and everything changed.
Chris Petersen was the offensive coordinator for the Broncos under Hawkins. However, in 2006, when Hawk flew to Colorado to be their head coach, Petersen was promoted back in Boise.
In retrospect, it has to be the best decision Boise State has ever made concerning its football program.
In his first season, Coach Pete led his team to a 13-0 record and the famous Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.
Since 2006, all Chris Petersen has done is go 84-8 as head coach, lead his team to a second Fiesta Bowl victory, five conference titles, three other bowl game wins, two Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Awards and built a solid program, all the while facilitating massive upgrades to the universities facilities.
He is also a great example and is known for not only producing quality football players, but quality individuals as well. He strives to make his players young men of integrity and demands excellence from everyone around him.
But, unlike some, he doesn't rule with an iron fist. Instead, he motivates, challenges and inspires those around him to climb higher and become more than what they might think they can be.
Petersen builds up rather than tears down, and his leadership is building Boise State into an elite program with vast potential.
Whatever the road might bring, it should be nice for Boise State fans to know Coach Pete is securely at the wheel.