This week’s edition of “Blast From the Bronco Past” features the legendary fullback/tight end Richie Brockel. He talks about his time as a Bronco, how his position has changed, and what he is up to these days.
Zach: Describe the recruiting process for you and what ultimately brought you to Boise State.
Richie: At the time I was getting recruited, Coach Harsin was the tight ends coach and in charge of recruiting Phoenix. He was the first coach to show up at my high school, and I really liked what I saw in the culture of Boise and the football program. Winning is ultimately what brought me to Boise State. At the end of the day, it came down to Boise State, Nevada-Reno, or Harvard. My thought was I could go to a different school and probably play sooner, but I wanted to be a winner. I figured the rest would work itself out.
Zach: Describe what it was like playing for Coach Pete. What makes him different than other coaches?
Richie: The thing Coach Pete did incredibly well was empower his players. He promoted an environment where everyone knew their role and how it fit into the dynamics of the team. He also encouraged everyone to be a leader, even if it was just by example. We often did leadership training and were always encouraged to try and make the person behind you the best player they could be. I think the thing that sets him apart is his ability to get guys to buy into the mission of the team. There was never a doubt what our mission or focus was for the week or season.
Zach: How did the NFL game differ from college? What kind of adjustments did you have to make?
Richie: The NFL is just a much faster game. Me being not so fast, it forced me to become a much smarter player. Intelligence is speed, and that was my biggest asset. I had to learn a lot more about the game and how to approach blocking guys that are basically unblockable. You learn really fast that a fraction of a second or an inch here and there are the difference between making the team and being cut. It is easy to stand out, but it also takes a great deal of work and consistency.
Zach: That 2009 squad may have been the best in school history. What set you guys apart?
Richie: I think it was the perfect storm of types of talent. We had basically an entire defense of NFL players, and we still had an old-school grind it out mentality that was still lingering from prior teams. There was great leadership from players and coaches. Everyone knew the mission, and we had unrelenting focus and determination to achieve those goals. There is no question in my mind that this was the best Boise State team of all time.
Zach: What did you or others do to focus on the task at hand and not buy into the hype?
Richie: I think there is only one way to approach this, and that is to have a perfection mindset. If you are striving to be perfect, your mission is never accomplished because no one is perfect. That mentality comes with setting difficult goals and staying vigilant in your pursuit of those goals whether they are daily goals or life goals. Coach Pete always told us to ask yourself before you did anything, “Is this getting me closer to or further away from my goals?”
Zach: You played for a few different quarterbacks in your time at BSU. Describe their approach. Also, does a different quarterback impact how you approach your role?
Richie: I played for three very different personalities at quarterback (Z, Tharp, and Kellen). They each brought different skills and energy to the team. The way I approached the game didn’t change based on who was at quarterback. I felt if I was always prepared, things would work out for the best.
Zach: You played kind of a hybrid tight end/fullback role during your time at BSU. Why do you think that role is diminishing in college football?
Richie: I think the role is diminishing because college football is trending in the direction of coaches wanting to control every aspect of the game. That is why you see these teams run a spread offense, line up, and look to the sideline for the play. I think the money is getting big for coaches, and they don’t always trust their players. The spread offense is the perfect way for a coach to control every aspect of what is happening on the field, which is not the type of offense we have run at Boise State which gives me hope for football. I think another reason is there are fewer kids that want to do the behind the scenes, tough it out type of position. Everyone is into the uniforms and social media. The role I played is the exact opposite of all those things. There was no glory and certainly not a ton of recognition. Just tough hard-nosed football.
Zach: Do you still follow BSU football? If so, what are your expectations for the upcoming season? Do you have a certain player you are keeping an eye on?
Richie: I expect to see a lot of the same. There is a culture at Boise State that is all about winning. I am looking forward to watching a more mature defense. It will really be fun to watch who will step into the quarterback position. The QB position at Boise State has always had big shoes to fill, so that will be a position I am excited to watch as the season comes together.
Zach: What was your favorite memory as a Bronco?
Richie: There will always be the game memories, but some of my greatest memories come from the workouts that we did as a team. There is nothing better than going out and suffering with a group of your good friends. When I get together with former teammates, one of the things that always comes up is stories about brutal workouts. Getting up early, going on runs, and hitting the weights. These things will always stand out in my mind, and it has had the most lasting impact on me as a person. Thanks Coach Pitt and Coach Socha for that.
Zach: Bronco Nation would love to know how life is treating you. What are you up to these days?
Richie: Since retiring from football, I became a CPA at Deloitte here in Boise under Jason Coronado. I currently work in the tax department. I also have a beautiful wife, daughter, and son. They keep me busy when I am not working. My daughter and I have been hitting the slopes a lot this last ski season. She turned 3, so it was time to get on the sticks. I also started brewing beer. This has been a great, low impact hobby for me that everyone around me gets to benefit from. We love to travel and hike during the summer in Boise. I basically love taking in the outdoor activities and spending as much time as I can with my family.
Zach: Any parting words for Bronco Nation?
Richie: We are so lucky to have such a great fan base and team. I think we take that for granted sometimes. It is not like this everywhere. There will always be ups and downs, but there is nothing like Bronco Football. I am so fortunate to have been a part of something very special at Boise State. It has made me a better person and brought me to such a great place.
For parents out there, let your boys play football. Don’t get swallowed by all the hoopla around the concussion fiasco. Football is the greatest sport in the world and the benefits, in my mind, far outweigh any risk. It is hard to put to words the things football can do for your personal growth. There is nothing better than going out with your friends and working really hard to achieve difficult goals. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t start playing again in high school. Not to drone on more about sports, but encourage your kids to play multiple sports. Athletics are fun and should always be fun no matter what level. Specializing can take the fun away from the high school experience. Encourage three sport athletes.
That’s it for this edition of “Blast From the Bronco Past.” Thank you to Richie Brockel for taking the time to sit down and talk to us. Stay tuned for next week’s edition!