When you look back on the Boise State Broncos of the mid to late 2000's, you think of the guys who exploded on the offensive side of the football.
Of course, the first thought comes to mind is Ian Johnson, who went from sharing the rushing duties with Lee Marks in 2005 to becoming almost a pop culture phenomenon in 2006, rushing for over 1,700 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also decided to pull one of the most clever ideas in the history of romanticism when he proposed to his girlfriend right after he ran in for the touchdown to beat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
Then, you got Jared Zabransky, who had his ups and downs during his tenure with the Broncos. However, in 2006, he took his game to another level. During the Broncos march to the Fiesta Bowl in 2006, the artist known as "Z" passed for 23 touchdowns and only threw 8 picks en route to winning the 2007 Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP award. He was a multi-faceted passer, who when the passing game wasn't working, knew how to avoid defenders with his quickness and ability to get key rushing yards when it mattered.
But perhaps one fellow who sometimes doesn't get the credit so richly deserves helped steer a Boise State defense that I dare say allowed both Johnson and Zabransky to get on the field and work their magic. A guy who not only could get a ton of tackles but also could put fear into the hearts of quarterbacks all over the WAC with his uncanny ability to get to the passer. He also could be an extra cornerback, who could get key picks in games.
That fellow was Korey Hall.
"Korey was one of those guys you never had to worry about," former Boise State running back Ian Johnson told me on Sunday. "You knew he was always going to be in position and that he was always going to make the tackle."
Born in Mountain Home, Idaho, Hall was a star player at Glenns Ferry High, where he was both a linebacker and a running back. In 2001, he was named the Class A-3 Player of the Year, and led Glenns Ferry to the Idaho State Championship Game, where they lost in a defensive struggle to Kamiah High.
In 2004, his first year on the team, Hall helped lead the Broncos to a 11-1 record, where they lost to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl. The next season, Hall went into beast mode, nabbing 106 total tackles, one and a half sacks and two interceptions as the Broncos finished 9-4, and lost to Boston College in the MPC Computers Bowl. Some of his biggest games of that year included the heartbreaker against Oregon State, where the Broncos lost 30-27. Hall had 12 tackles in that game. Another big one took place on October 22nd of that year, when the Broncos faced off against Utah State. Hall recorded 11 tackles in that game, and also got to the passer for a sack as well.
Johnson knew that Hall was one of the guys on the team that embodied a heart of champion, and would do anything to make his team better.
"He was the guy you knew would spark something on defense. He could do everything we needed done."
The Broncos looked primed and ready to compete for a BCS bowl in the 2006 season. Out was Dan Hawkins, who scored a major opportunity to become head coach at the University of Colorado. In was Chris Petersen, the Broncos offensive coordinator who knew how to get his team to score early and often. Running the defense was Justin Wilcox, a former Boise State GA who had just returned to the program after a tenure at Cal, where he served as Linebackers Coach. Under Wilcox's watch, the Broncos had solid guys like Marty Tadman, Colt Brooks and Gerald Alexander on the team, but without Hall, the Boise State defense was missing something.
Jeff Caves, who hosts "Idaho Sports Talk" with Mike Prater, and also contributes to "Bronco Gameday" on 670 KBOI in Boise, has been told many times that Hall was the anchor of that defense that year.
"I had many a coach tell me that Korey Hall saved the defense that year on several plays," Caves said.
Hall proved many coaches right with his outstanding play during that Fiesta Bowl year, with 111 total tackles, three and a half sacks, and six interceptions, earning him the WAC Defensive Player of the Year. Perhaps his two biggest games of the year were against Oregon State, where he grabbed 11 total tackles, an interception, and one and a half sack, helping Boise State crush the Beavers 42-14. Hall had another masterpiece on October 28th of that year against New Mexico State, helping himself to 15 total tackles, an interception and a sack as the Broncos beat the Aggies 40-28.
Hall's blue collar work ethic, mixed in with the amazing offensive punch that the Broncos exhibited that year, earned the Broncos their ultimate goal: a trip to the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl against Adrian Peterson and the Oklahoma Sooners.
Of course, Ian Johnson had an amazing game, rushing for 101 yards, a touchdown, winning the game in overtime and earning the hand of the love of his life in holy matrimony. Jared Zabransky picked up the Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP and earned himself some looks from NFL teams.
Hall played like he normally did. Quiet but effective. In the game he had 6 tackles, helping a Boise State squad that just ten years before, was a Big Sky team looking to move to that next level. With the win, the Broncos had cemented themselves among the elite in college football.
After the raising of the trophy and the downtown Boise celebrations had commenced, it was time for Hall to make the step to the big stage. It looked like he would have a shot at the NFL, but the question was: would he play the same position?
The Green Bay Packers knew the answer.
The Pack selected Hall in the 6th round of the NFL Draft in 2007. Rather than have Hall chase after Payton Manning, Tom Brady, Tony Romo and the best quarterbacks that the NFL had to offer, the braintrusts at Cheesehead USA had other ideas for Hall.
He would be a fullback.
For the next couple of years, Hall would play on a Packers team that would signify excellence. He was on the Green Bay roster that won Super Bowl 45 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He would join former Boise State teammate Daryn Colledge as two former Broncos that won a Super Bowl ring that year.
In the 2011 season, Hall caught on with the New Orleans Saints, where he appeared in 13 games. In 2012, he signed in-season with the Arizona Cardinals, but retired three days later.
Hall's contributions to the Boise State program should result in an induction into the Boise State Hall of Fame. He ranks up with warriors like Bryan Johnson, Dave Wilcox, Andy Avalos and John Rade as the best Broncos linebackers of all time.
"Korey Hall is one of the most hard nosed high energy guys the state of Idaho has ever produced," Caves said.
More importantly, Korey Hall knew how to win.