Throughout its 81 year history, (36 of which were under the name of Boise Junior College), the Boise State University football program has seen its fair share of lovable and talented athletes.
From undefeated seasons to Division 1-AA national championships, the Broncos have put together some teams that will always be remembered by fans that were lucky enough to witness the history and be passed down through stories to those that were not yet alive.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most beloved players in Boise State football history. Not all of these men played on teams that made the record books, but in some way the names on this list have been permanently ingrained in the minds of the Bronco faithful.
For the sake of clarification, it should be noted that coaches were not considered for this list. Had they been, head men such as Chris Petersen, Lyle Smith and Pokey Allen would have been included.
It’s nearly impossible to come up with concrete criteria for what makes a player a fan favorite; it just happens throughout the course of an athlete’s career. Thus, this list is subject to much criticism.
Therefore, feel free to leave a reply in the comments section with any players who you believe should have cracked this list.
But first, let’s take a look at the players who did make the list for being one of the biggest fan favorites in Broncos’ football history.
Vinny Perretta was not some sideshow that the Broncos brought out when they needed to make a big play.
In fact, Perretta ended his career in the blue and orange with 74 receptions and nearly 1000 yards receiving, in addition to playing running back. (Rivals.com)
However, Perretta will always be remembered most fondly for a play that cannot be described as anything other than tricky.
In the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, the Broncos had already made an improbable comeback with just seconds left on the clock in regulation when they found themselves in another precarious position: fourth and two in overtime, down 42-35 to powerhouse Oklahoma.
Lined up at the five yard line, the Broncos sent quarterback Jared Zabransky in motion, leaving only Perretta in the backfield. The ball was snapped and Perretta rolled to his right, baiting the Oklahoma defense into thinking he was going to try to run for the first down.
Instead, Perretta reared back and threw to Derek Shouman who was cutting to the back of the end zone. Shouman caught the ball and gave Boise State new life.
Any Bronco fan knows what happened after that, so there is no need to re-tell the story (we will anyway in a few slides). But because of the gutsy play, Perretta will forever have a special place in the hearts of Bronco fans as well as underdogs everywhere.
Oddly enough, Boise State has only retired one number for its football team.
The number is 12, the one that Jim McMillan wore during his time with the program from 1971-1974.
McMillan was the quarterback for a couple of very talented Boise State football teams, one that reached the Division II semifinals (1973) and another that won the Big Sky conference with a perfect 6-0 in-conference record (1974).
In 1974, McMillan was a unanimous choice for the Division II All-American team and was also chosen as the Big Sky’s Offensive Player of the Year.
In addition, McMillan was essentially the last great quarterback under the tutelage of Boise State head coach Tony Knap, who is second on the all-time wins list since Boise State became a four-year school behind Chris Petersen.
Before Doug Martin or Ian Johnson or Brock Forsey, there was Cedric Minter.
A member of the 1980 team’s famed “Four Horseman” backfield (with quarterback Joe Aliotti, fullback David Hughes and halfback Terry Zahner), Minter cemented his legacy as a Bronco by helping the team win the 1980 Division II national championship, the school’s first.
Despite being a bit undersized at 5’10” 190 pounds, Minter finished his career in Boise with over 4400 rushing yards and was a two-time All-American selection.
At one time, Minter held nearly every major rushing record at Boise State.
Minter wasn’t selected in the NFL Draft, and instead chose to begin his pro career in the Canadian Football League, where he won a Grey Cup with the Toronto Argonauts in 1983.
Some guys like to live on the edge. Those that make it work end up becoming pretty well liked.
Such is the case for Rick Woods, a safety and punt returner for the Broncos from 1978-1981. Also a member of the 1980 national championship team, Woods earned the nickname “Riverboat Gambler” for the fact that he rarely ever called for a fair catch when returning punts.
Clearly, that didn’t deter professional teams from taking a chance on Woods. After being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1982, Woods went on to play six seasons in the NFL.
When people think of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl game, regardless of whether or not they are Boise State fans, most of them remember Ian Johnson.
Johnson was the man who crossed the goal line with the ball, giving the Broncos an improbable 43-42 victory over the heavily favored Oklahoma Sooners. But what he did afterwards is perhaps more memorable.
On national television, Johnson proposed to his fiancé Chrissy Popadics, who also happened to be a cheerleader for the Broncos.
She said yes, of course, and the Cinderella story in Scottsdale, Arizona was sealed with yet another happy ending.
But in addition to his Fiesta Bowl heroics, Johnson was also an extremely tough player during the entirety of his career at Boise State. Despite struggling with injuries during his sophomore and junior seasons, Johnson holds the school and WAC record for rushing touchdowns in a career as well as the school record for rushing yards in a season (with 1,714).
Johnson’s contributions to the team throughout his career, and particularly in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, are more than enough to make him one of Boise State’s (and this author’s in particular) fan favorites.
Trautman is a beloved player if you’re a Boise State fan, but a menace if you’re a fan of just about any other collegiate football team.
One of the most accomplished defensive players of all-time at Boise State, Trautman is the only Bronco to be named a four-time first team All-American. From 1978-1981, the big defensive tackle wreaked havoc in the trenches and made things very difficult for opposing running games.
It isn’t certain how many sacks Trautman had during his career at Boise State because the statistic was not kept when he played, but chances are he would have the record at the school.
When Kellen Moore stepped on Boise State’s campus as a freshman in 2007, not even the wildest expectations could have matched what he ended up doing for the university.
A four year starter for the Broncos from 2008-2011, Moore would go on to become the FBS Division’s all-time leader in wins with 50, as well as set school records for career passing yards and passing touchdowns, wins and passing touchdowns in a season.
Moore can be credited with finally getting the Broncos over the hump as a team that year in and year out is capable of competing with college football’s most powerful programs. During his time as a Bronco, Moore was able to lead Boise State to victory over teams such as TCU, Georgia, Virginia Tech and Oregon.
However, despite all of his accolades, Moore may remain as one of the most beloved players in Boise State football history more because of what he was unable to accomplish.
A two-time All-American and fourth place finisher in the Heisman Trophy race, Moore played in only one BCS bowl despite losing only three times in his career.
Then, Moore went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Thus, many would say Moore received the short end of the stick.
The reasons may change from person to person, but the outcome is the same: Kellen Moore is the greatest quarterback, and perhaps biggest fan favorite, in Boise State football history.