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Boise State Football: Running With Pride; The Tale of Ian Johnson

Ian Johnson helped Boise State to an unbelievable run.

Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

If you look back at the history of Boise State football, the team has had an impressive number of players come through their program. Of course, you remember the quarterbacks like Kellen Moore, Jared Zabransky, Ryan Dinwiddie and Bart Hendricks.

But the school has also had some stellar running backs as well. Guys like Doug Martin, Jay Ajayi, Cedric Minter, Brock Forsey, Chris Thomas and Rodney Webster. However, when you compile a list of best rushers in Boise State history, you cannot leave out a guy who had a never say die attitude, and made everyone around him better.

That guy is Ian Johnson.

Rick Worthington, who covers Boise State for both 670 KBOI and 93.1 The Ticket in Boise, said that Johnson's biggest attribute was his speed.

"As a player Ian Johnson had that one thing EVERY college football player wants-speed," Worthington told me on Saturday. "Ian was really fast, and I think that as much as anything made him an amazing college football player. As they say, Speed Kills."

You know about the great Fiesta Bowl season. You know about the marriage proposal. But you should also know that this guy ran through defenses like a tropical storm, amassing over 4,100 yards and 58 touchdowns during his career with Boise State.

Ian Johnson was money.

For a four year period, from 2005 to 2008, he was the face of the Boise State program. Perhaps you remember the Oregon State game in 2006 when Johnson ran for 240 yards and 5 touchdowns? Or how about the Nevada 4 overtime shootout in 2007 when he rushed for 204 yards and 2 scores as the Broncos edged Colin Kaepernick and the Wolf Pack 69-67? It was perhaps the greatest game in WAC Football history,and Ian Johnson played a huge role in it.

So many good memories.

Ian Johnson's College Stats-Boise State

Rushing Rushing Rushing Rushing Receiving Receiving Receiving Receiving Scrimmage Scrimmage Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg
*2005 Boise State WAC FR RB 13 119 663 5.6 4 5 46 9.2 0 124 709 5.7
*2006 Boise State WAC SO RB 12 277 1713 6.2 25 8 55 6.9 0 285 1768 6.2
*2007 Boise State WAC JR RB 11 207 1041 5 16 25 312 12.5 1 232 1353 5.8
*2008 Boise State WAC SR RB 13 150 766 5.1 13 22 229 10.4 0 172 995 5.8
Career Boise State 753 4183 5.6 58 60 642 10.7 1 813 4825 5.9

When Johnson joined the Boise State roster in 2005, the team looked primed and ready to compete with the big boys in college football. The team had a nice mix of multiple offensive weapons combined with a very underrated defense. Johnson was joined in the offensive scheme by QB Jared Zabransky, wide receivers Drisan James, Jerard Rabb and Legedu Naanee, running back Lee Marks and tight end Derek Schouman. Plus, it didn't hurt that the Broncos had guys like Ryan Clady, Daryn Colledge, Tad Miller and Pete and Jeff Cavender blocking up front. The team's coaching staff included head coach Dan Hawkins, offensive coordinator Chris Petersen and tight ends coach Bryan Harsin.

Pretty much a who's who of great offensive minds.

Johnson had a nice 2005 freshman season, rushing for 663 yards and 4 TD's as he split time with Lee Marks. The Broncos finished 9-4 and was scheduled to meet Matt Ryan and Boston College in the MPC Computers Bowl at their home turf in Boise. Before the game was supposed to take place, head coach Dan Hawkins accepted a job at the University of Colorado. The Broncos lost in a close fought game, 27-21. Despite the loss, the Broncos set their sights to the future, and it definitely looked bright.

With the Hawkins departure, opportunity arose for offensive coordinator Chris Petersen, who was promoted to head coach, Harsin was upped to offensive coordinator, and the change was immediately felt. Johnson had a season for the ages, running for 1,714 yards and 25 TD's. He picked up a 1st team All-American Award as the Broncos cemented their place as one of the best college football teams during the 2006 season, finishing a perfect 13-0 and winning the WAC Championship. Plus, the Broncos had the bowl game they had so richly desired, a meeting in the Fiesta Bowl with the Oklahoma Sooners.

The Sooners were lead by running back Adrian Peterson, who had 1,112 yards that year, and was without a doubt one of the best running backs in the Nation. However, on that night, Johnson was just a little better, rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown as the Broncos beat Oklahoma in one of the greatest college games ever, beating the Sooners with the Statue of Liberty play to win 43-42.

It was like a scene out of a sports movie. The underdog wins. The star running back proposes to his girlfriend. The fans erupt.

It made for perfect cinema.

With that 2006 performance, Ian Johnson solidified himself as one of the best running backs in college football. He had taken Boise State, which had been a solid program for years, and made then truly great. 2006 was definitely a banner year for Johnson and the program.

Ian Johnson, Chris Petersen and Jared Zabransky helped Boise State win the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. (Courtesy of Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Ian Johnson, Chris Petersen and Jared Zabransky helped Boise State win the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. (Courtesy of Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

When Johnson and Boise State went to 2007, the program found themselves in transition. Jared Zabansky had graduated, and the team turned the QB reigns to Taylor Tharp. Johnson had another great year, with 1,041 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. The Broncos finished 7-1 in the WAC and 10-3 overall, and lost to Chris Johnson and the East Carolina Pirates in the Hawaii Bowl, 41-38. Despite the loss, Johnson accepted more accolades that year, having being named to First Team-All WAC.

When 2008 rolled around, the team had some really amazing tools to work with. Not only did they have Johnson, but the team saw the emergence of Kellen Moore at the quarterback position. They also had guys like Jeremy Childs, Austin Pettis, Jeremy Avery, Vinny Perretta and D.J. Harper. The Broncos also were assisted defensively by Kyle Wilson, Jeron Johnson, Ellis Powers, Ryan Winterswyk, George Iloka and Mike T. Williams.

The Broncos had another amazing season, going 8-0 in the WAC and 12-1 overall, including a big win over Oregon, 37-32. Johnson had his biggest game that year against Fresno State in the final game of the regular season, smoking the Bulldogs 61-10. Johnson rushed for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns. That year, he led Boise State with 738 yards and 12 touchdowns. In the Poinsettia Bowl against TCU in San Diego, the Broncos lost a game decided on defense, losing to the Horned Frogs 17-16.

It also was Johnson's last college game.

With his college days in the books, Johnson looked to graduate to the next level. He was signed as a free agent by the Minnesota Vikings. After the 2009 preseason, Minnesota released Johnson. He then caught on with numerous clubs on practice squads, but could never quite stay on with any team during the regular season.

Johnson is doing very well after retirement. He's running his own State Farm insurance office in Meridian, Idaho, where he lives with his life Chrissy and his daughter Johannah.

He told the Idaho Statesman in December of last year that it's both a good thing and bad thing to be a businessman and have name recognition.

We definitely get name recognition. But it’s also a detriment. When I took over, State Farm sent out a notice that said, "Your new agent will be Ian Johnson. Here’s some stuff about him." A number of people said, "He’s too young. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. His family isn’t from insurance. He’s a football player." So we had people who left because they knew who I was. But it definitely helps out. It at least sparks something, and if you put my face on it, it helps a little more.

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No matter what Ian Johnson does, he will be remembered for a few things: Doing a incredibly clever and romatic proposal, and being one of the best players in Boise State history. His quickness and ability to make it happen in the end zone makes him forever immortal in the eyes of the Bronco Nation.

And that's something you can hang your hat on.