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Bronco Salute: A tribute to Boise State's senior class


Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight is Senior Night on The Blue and it will be a bittersweet moment for 21 Bronco seniors. They've all paid their dues in blood, sweat, and tears in service to the Boise State football program and each and every one of them deserve our gratitude. Let's get this over with before I start getting misty.

Donte Deayon, CB

Farewell, ball-hawking Bronco.

Deayon was never the biggest guy on the fact, I don't think he ever cracked the 160 lb. plateau, but talk about "playing big". Deayon will at the very least leave school with the 3rd most interceptions in league history if he doesn't play another down for the Broncos. Something tells me he'll don the blue and orange one more time.

Jack Fields, RB

Farewell, under-utilized Bronco.

Fields never quite lassoed a high number of carries, but he was willing to contribute wherever the coaches needed him to and despite his lack of touches, he always ran with conviction.

Tyler Gray, LB

Farewell, quiet Bronco.

Gray, a soft-spoken and rarely hyped linebacker, quietly put together a stellar career on The Blue (and off it). He'll likely leave Boise State with close to 200 career tackles, more than a dozen tackles-for-loss, half a dozen sacks and at least 3 INTs (one of which was a pick-six game-changer against Nevada last season). Gray didn't need the headlines. True lunchpail guy.

Kevin Keane, LS

Farewell, snappin' Bronco.

You probably haven't heard much about Keane, the team's long-snapper...but that's a good thing. People only hear about the long-snapper when they did something wrong, and Keane did a lot of things right. Boise State's kicking and punting units have done well this year, and Keane has to get some of the credit for that.

Armand Nance, DT

Farewell, most "turnt" Bronco.

Easy to forget that Nance came to Boise State as a 230 lb TE/HB, bulked up in camp and made an almost immediate switch to the D-line...starting his playing career as a true freshman. Nance never looked back and has been a stalwart inside presence on the Bronco D-line for four years. Nance is always a spark of energy for the team and I'll never forget his pregame emotion or him banging his head at midfield to "Turn Down For What?" during Boise State's comeback win against SDSU in 2014. Replacing players is way easier than replacing leaders, and Nance is one of the true leaders for the Broncos.

Shane Williams-Rhodes, WR

Farewell, littlest Bronco.

Shane Williams-Rhodes is the poster boy for the phrase "looks can be deceiving". The diminutive Texan doesn't look like a guy that would be much trouble for opposing defenses, but oh man what a headache this guy must have been the last 4 seasons. SWR provided more electric plays throughout his career than I can name, but his heart will really define his career.

Robert Ash, DL

Farewell, versatile Bronco.

Robert Ash had an interesting career arc at Boise State. He came in as a highly-touted D-line prospect, seemed completely forgotten and was moved to the O-line, then he got moved back to the D-line and became a solid, if seldom-used contributor. Plays I'll remember from Ash will be his big TFL in the Fiesta Bowl and sack at UConn in 2014, but most of all I'll remember his tenacity. Ash never gave up.

Jerhen Ertel, OL

Farewell, tallest Bronco.

Well, it looks like fellow O-lineman Dan Urquhart is taller, but you get the gist. Ertel hasn't really been a huge contributor for the Broncos since joining a season ago as a JC-transfer, but a lot more goes on in practice and behind-the-scenes that we don't see. Thanks for being a Bronco, Jerhen.

Terrell Johnson, WR

Farewell, scrappy Bronco.

Johnson, another JC-transfer, has just this year started to work into the game plan, but I've been to practices and I know his scout team contributions have been invaluable. Johnson is a very versatile and talented wideout and I hope his Bronco career has the happiest of endings.

Kelsey Young, RB

Farewell, brainy Bronco.

Boise State has a lot of distinguished students on the roster, but only one already has a computer science degree from Stanford—Kelsey Young. Young is speedy, versatile and smart and I think he has a bright future ahead of him wherever he lands next. I wish we'd had more time with the elder Young, but glad he's imparted some of his work-ethic on his younger brother, Cory...whom we get for 3 more years.

Mercy Maston, N

Farewell, most-improved Bronco.

I'm going out on a limb here because Maston sat out 2014 with injury, but I can't think of many players that have made bigger strides than Maston. He's brought physicality and toughness back to the nickel position and left me thankful he got a medical redshirt, but sad that his eligibility is toast this year. Maston's pick-six at Virginia was a thing of beauty. Go get those Falcons tonight, Mercy!

Justin Taimatuia, DL

Farewell, scariest Bronco.

In reality, Taimatuia is a big softie...but few play the game with more emotion than Taimatuia—an intimidating presence in the middle for the Broncos. I'll never forget JT losing his helmet at BYU and still taking down Tanner Mangum. For Taimatuia, head protection was lower down the priority totem pole than making a play. I'll also never forget that he was penalized for that play...aren't some NCAA rules fun?

Antoine Turner, DL

Farewell, inspirational Bronco.

Turner's Bronco career had a sad ending, since he's been absent all year with an academic issue, but I can't think of a more jovial, kind-hearted and thankful Bronco than Antoine Turner. Turner's background was well-documented as he was homeless and struggling to survive while pursuing his dreams of football stardom. The Broncos gave him a shot and Turner has paid it forward ever since. Really, really bummed that we didn't get to see Turner finish things out the proper way on The Blue, but here's another player with a bright future ahead of him.

Rondell McNair, DL

Farewell, smiling Bronco.

Like Turner, McNair was a late JC addition to the Broncos 2014 recruiting class. His career also has featured some ups and downs, like his counterpart Turner...but I always see Turner smiling, encouraging, and cheering on his teammates even when sidelined with injury. The kid could play a little too—remember the sack-safety last season against Utah State? What a play.

Darian Thompson, S

Farewell, consummate Bronco.

Thompson will leave Boise State as the all-time conference leader in interceptions and one of the unquestioned leaders of the defense. His play on the field has spoken for itself, but he's also been a great ambassador off the field for Boise State. Hard to believe that his safety spot was all but sewn up by Lee Hightower before seized his opportunity there. Hindsight is 20/20, but I think we're all happy about the way things turned out. Big shoes to fill next season.

Jake Hardee, TE

Farewell, blue-collar Bronco.

Hardee made his way onto the Boise State squad the old-fashioned way: he earned it. A standout TE at Boise's Bishop Kelly High School, Hardee didn't get the coveted Bronco offer out of HS...but Hardee didn't let that deter him and earned a scholarship prior to the 2014 season. It was almost as rewarding for Bronco Nation to see Jake get into the endzone against UNLV as it was for Jake himself. Hardee is exactly the type of player that this program is built around.

Marcus Henry, OL

Farewell, rock-solid Bronco.

Henry could have gone a lot of places for his college career, but I think we're all happy he chose to be a Bronco. I thought the coaches were crazy moving him from guard—where he'd flourished—to center (a new position). Henry took the switch in stride and ended up an all-conference performer at center. Boise State O-line has been fluid of late, but Henry has pretty much been a constant.

Deuce Mataele, DL

Farewell, eldest Bronco.

Seriously, Deuce is fast approaching 30 years old, and Bronco fans waited a long time to see him suit up, but he never quit, never complained, and just kept working to get on the field. We know Deuce is already a husband and father, but I know he's also taken other Bronco teammates under his wing and relationships are how you really create a team.

Rees Odhiambo, OL

Farewell, unassuming Bronco.

Rees isn't unassuming physically...he's a mountain of a man, but his soft-spoken, shy demeanor belies his competitive nature on the field. Rees came in a very "raw" recruit and left one of the more dependable anchors on the O-line. It's a shame he won't be suited up for his final home game in more ways than one.

Tyler Horn, DL

Farewell, homegrown Bronco.

Horn, who played prep ball just up the road at Mountain View High School has been a real boon to the Bronco D-line because he can play so many positions and well, he can play them all well. Horn is another player that might have been done a season ago if not for an unfortunate injury, but selfishly it was sure nice to have his leadership on the field this season. We love all our Broncos, but the homegrown ones really inspire the youth of the Treasure Valley.

Holden Huff, TE

Farewell, lanky Bronco.

Huff has never had the body of a prototypical TE, but he never was a prototypical tight end...was he? Huff had a bit of a rollercoaster ride of a career as a Bronco, but even with limited career receptions, he made a ton of memorable plays and I think we'll all remember him taking over the Vegas Bowl in 2012 or his wide open TD reception against Hawaii this year. Thanks for the memories, Holden.