Boise State mixes fun with work in fall camp

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BOISE — Fall camp isn’t just about football for the Boise State Broncos.

They’re racing go-karts, shooting free throws and baking mac and cheese — activities designed to improve team unity, reinforce the need for a competitive spirit and provide a little levity during one of the most grueling months of the year.

Coach Chris Petersen calls his annual multi-event competition the Bronco Olympics.

“We love it,” senior linebacker Tommy Smith told The Idaho Statesman (http://bit.ly/OgAS1T). “It’s a time to just put football to the side, and it’s all fun and games.”

The roster is split into 11 teams of nine or 10 players. The nine full-time assistant coaches and two second-year graduate assistant coaches each drafted a team the week that fall camp began. They were not allowed to draft a player from their position group, and they were asked to pull players from each class.

The teams compete in nine events throughout fall camp with little more than pride on the line. The events: team name, go-kart racing, home run derby with tennis equipment, free-throw shooting, mac and cheese cook-off, bowling, bowling uniforms, know-your-teammates game show and talent show.

Petersen and the non-coaching football staff serve as judges. Brad Larrondo, the assistant athletic director for football, is the commissioner.

Scoring updates are provided at the team meeting each evening.

“To me, it’s all about getting to know their teammates first and foremost and then second of all it’s just the concept of competing,” Petersen said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the dumbest game ever, we want our guys to try to win.”

And they do — even if it means turning on their friends.

Teams are required to sit together at meals and the veterans try to bait the youngsters into sitting at the wrong table, which costs the misplaced player’s team points.

Players — and coaches — are quick to point the finger at rules violators.

“There’s so much whining going on,” Petersen said. “That’s the next lesson that has to be learned when Bronco Olympics is over — how to stop whining and just compete. A lot of times the coaches are the most irritated on the rules and regulations and are saying, ‘He’s cheating.’ “

Some Bronco Olympics events come and go. One staple: the know-your-teammates game. There’s a list of 20 facts players need to know about their teammates.

“We want them to know the guys on the team and find out what they’re about,” Larrondo said.

Some of the most accomplished Bronco Olympians include offensive tackle Faraji Wright, fullback Dan Paul and tailback D.J. Harper — all seniors who have learned how to succeed within the system.

“You’ve got to come together with your team,” Paul said. “You’ve got to come together in that first week and sort of build your Bronco Olympics identity and go out there and compete as hard as you can.”

Along the way, the teams have a lot of fun, too.

“Everybody loves Bronco Olympics,” senior linebacker J.C. Percy said. “It lightens the mood for fall camp. Everybody looks forward to the talent show. People already started planning back in the middle of the summer.”

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