In this edition of “Blast From the Bronco Past,” I had the good fortune of talking with former Boise State linebacker Aaron Tevis. Tevis was a vital part of some of the best defenses in Boise State history. We discussed what it was like to be a part of those units and what he is up to today.
Zach: Aaron, describe the recruiting process for you. What made you decide on Boise State?
Aaron: Playing NCAA football or even in the NFL was never something that was an actual goal for me growing up. I played just about every sport for fun. I have a younger brother, Jared, who played at U of A, and we would compete against each other, whether it was basketball at the YMCA, hockey in the front yard, wrestling in the living room, or full tackle football games with our cousins. I think this gave us a competitive edge that was developed at a young age, and luckily, we were blessed with some natural ability to go along with it. Anyway, I didn’t really even think about getting recruited or playing in college until I started getting some attention my junior year. I only got a handful of offers. I took an official visit to Wyoming, and they had a decent program and they were great coaches and people, but the town just wasn’t for me. I then took a visit to Boise, Idaho in 2006, a city I had never really even heard of, and was blown away. The city itself was amazing - the Boise River flowing right through downtown, Lucky Peak, Bogus Basin, snow in the winter! I’m from Arizona, so we have to travel to go in natural water and it had only snowed there twice in my life, so that was a huge draw for me. But what really made me decide on Boise State were the Coaches and the culture that they curated. You could tell that the coaches were genuine and honest, and that really goes far in my books. Coach Huff had made several trips to my high school and Coach Pete made a house visit and I could tell they cared about me and that I would be taken care of at Boise State. I actually cancelled a visit to UNLV immediately after my Boise visit and that didn’t go over so well with the UNLV coach, but I was fully confident with my decision. I got to watch the 2007 Fiesta Bowl with my friends and family as a commit and overnight, my scholarship to a little known university in Idaho, exploded into a scholarship to a school that the whole world was talking about!
Zach: When you look at how the recruiting process has changed since you played, what are some thoughts that come to your mind?
Aaron: It is crazy. I can’t even imagine what the players and coaches go through with the new social media landscape. I know the coaches hate it, but that is what it is, so they have done a good job adapting. While social media has made it easier for contact between players and coaches to happen, it also brings in a flood of unwanted noise for both the players and the coaches that can make it hard to stand out as a player and hard to find hidden talent. It also allows programs to see a better picture of what a player is really like as a person, so players need to be deliberate about their online presence.
One other thing that has changed since I was being recruited is specialized training at a young age. The parents usually have good intentions, but I personally believe that it can be detrimental to a child because the parents are choosing the sport for the child before they even know if it’s a sport that the child loves or even has next-level potential for. It could cause an athlete to miss out on a sport that they may not have learned that they love and excel at until high school. It could also cause burnout if an athlete is forced to play a sport that they aren’t having fun with.
Also, specifically with Boise State’s recruiting, they have resources that were not even fathomable when I was in high school. BSU’s made significant upgrades to the campus and the football program that make playing and attending BSU very attractive to just about any player in the country - and our decades of consistent winning doesn’t hurt either. BSU has access to 4 and 5 star players that we couldn’t get 12 years ago. Sometimes with higher star recruits comes higher egos and attitudes, but I know Coach Harsin still sticks to the Bronco values of finding OKGs that will be able to take coaching advice and put the team above themselves. As long as we continue recruiting with that in mind, I think we will be in good shape.
Zach: You were a part of some elite defenses. What made those groups so special?
Aaron: There were a ton of things. I think we had one of the best D-Lines in the country, with depth too, which allowed the back 7 to be even more effective in the run and pass game. When you have Shea, Billy, Chase, Tyrone, Swyk up front taking on double teams, rushing the QB, and pushing the line of scrimmage back, it makes everyone’s life easier. Coach Choate had a saying on special teams, “Sacrifice your body, glorify your soul!”, which Jarrell Root adapted for the D-Line, “Sacrifice your body, glorify your linebacker!”. They definitely deserve assist for many of the tackles we got. We also had an elite secondary with George, Jeron, BT, Jamar. While our backers were probably out-shined by the superstars on the team, we had solid players that completed a balanced and dominant defense.
We also had one of the smartest coaches I’ve ever seen with Justin Wilcox. His attention to detail was unmatched. Every single player on the defense knew exactly what to do in every single situation an offense could throw at us. That comes from the game planning and preparation that Wilcox and the other coaches were constantly doing - I don’t think he slept during the season. That preparation let us play without hesitation and not get tricked by anything the offense threw at us. Our hustle made it so that if someone did miss a play, there was a swarm of our guys coming to help.
Zach: Your teams also had great offenses. How did going against guys like Kellen Moore, Doug Martin, and Austin Pettis help you guys?
Aaron: It was all about competing. When you have live practice periods against the Kellens, Dougs, and APs on the team, you practice against the best. When it came to game time, there were no shocks with the level of talent we played against. For the most part, practice drills and scrimmages were harder than the games. When you go against talent you have never faced before, it can seem like you’re standing on the track at the Indy 500, but when you see the type of speed and talent that we saw in practice every day, the games were almost in slow motion. (Side note - Doug is one of my good friends and was one of my roommates for years. We constantly competed: 1 on 1 tackling drills on the goal line, 12 minute bridge challenges in the weight room, and stupid stuff that had nothing to do with football like Mortal Kombat, hour long basketball games of 21, snowball fights, Nerf wars. Don’t ask him who won all of those competitions though; it’s a sore subject for him.)
Zach: Describe what it was like playing for Coach Pete? What makes him such a great coach?
Aaron: Coach Pete is the best leader I’ve ever encountered in my life. He could easily run a Fortune 500 company. He knows the psychology behind leadership and uses it to his advantage. Being in business management now, I wish I could go back and take better notes of everything he said. I know it sounds cliche, but he helped us develop not just into great football players, but great people. The last things he would say to us on the nights before games wasn’t football related, but life lessons. Aside from helping relax our minds before going to sleep, it really helped us develop into men of integrity. One other thing that really stuck out to me was that you would never see him lose his temper. He was always calm and used whatever means seemed to motivate people the most. He was always very deliberate in everything he did. I think the biggest edge he has though is his inability to ever be complacent. We would be going through practice, and everyone would be trying hard, but he would stop practice and tell us what he was seeing from a macro-level and let us know that even though we are out there putting in work, it wasn’t good enough. Most people don’t understand how mental the game of football is. The boiling point is a concept from the book “212: The Extra Degree” that he got us to live by. With water at 211 degrees, you just have hot water, but with just 1 more degree that hot water turns into boiling water which had the power to ignite the industrial revolution. In football, the extra 1 degree is having an intense focus and being very deliberate with every minute of practice, using it to get better every day. It is a lot easier said than done.
Zach: It seems like you still have a close relationship with some of your former teammates. What is it about the culture at Boise State that allows you to build those relationships with your teammates?
Aaron: I think any time you make a group of guys sacrifice so much time, effort, blood, and sweat together into a common goal, you are going to create bonds that no one else in the world could understand. I think it is only comparable to the bonds formed in the military. What made our relationships special at Boise State was the type of people that we had in the locker room. Integrity was paramount to Coach Pete, so we had a ton of just overall good people on the team from all walks of life that all became brothers for life. We trusted each other with our lives, and we genuinely enjoyed spending time with one another. Even with my teammates that I haven’t seen in years, I could meet with them and we can shoot the breeze like it was 10 years ago.
Zach: What was your greatest memory as a Bronco? What sticks out about that moment?
Aaron: I have so many great memories as a Bronco on and off the field, but the one that sticks out to me personally was San Jose State 2010. My grandmother lives in California, and I think this was the first game she was able to come to along with some other extended family. So, it was awesome to be able to have my best moment happen right in front of them. Hunter White and I have a tradition on the day-before walk-through and during pregame where he would throw me a dozen dimes, ending with a 50 yard throw. I would catch it one-handed, over the top of the ball. We probably did this a thousand times throughout our career, and we both still swear that Odell must’ve scouted us when he was in high school. Anyway, during the SJSU game, we were running a play where both the backers, Byron and I, show off the edge and we both take 2 rush steps to make it look like we’re bringing the house, then drop out. Based off what the back does, one of us takes his man, and the other helps with underneath coverage. The RB was on Byron’s side and got a slight step on him inside. The QB lobbed in a pass that looked to gain at least 20 yards. I saw this unfolding and was able to get back and reach up with one hand just enough to get a grip on the ball and snatch it down. With a little help from my friends, I was in the end zone with Shea, Swyk, Billy, and Byron celebrating one of my best catches of my life. Even with having my ankle destroyed at the goal line on that play, I would do it again. Unfortunately this was one of the few games that wasn’t televised, so the video quality isn’t the best:
Zach: You played against some great teams and players. Which competitors and teams stick out during your time as a Bronco?
Aaron: There were many, but some that I can think of are Ryan Mathews from Fresno State - he ran all over us, Andy Dalton from TCU - great competitor and responsible for 1 of my 3 losses, Legarrette Blount from Oregon - he took a few “ass-whoopins” from us, Tyrod Taylor from VT - gave us a run for our money, Chris Johnson from ECU - I was only a redshirt but he was running at a higher gear than anyone on our team, Jacquizz Rodgers from OSU - I had a nice little hit on him that popped his helmet in the air. Honestly though, at the time, when game-prepping, I never really looked at the hype around players, I just looked at them on film as a player that has certain tendencies. There are probably a ton of other guys I am forgetting. The team that I remember the most though is TCU, because my wife went there. We ended up playing them 3 times. They got us twice, but we got them in the Fiesta Bowl and I wouldn’t trade that.
Zach: Do you still follow the Boise State program? If so, what are your expectations for the upcoming season? Do you have a player that you are expecting to have a breakout season?
Aaron: It’s weird. Now that I’m about 9 years out from playing - damn, I feel old - I don’t know any current players. Just about everyone from my coaching staff is at UW, so it’s hard to have any insider info anymore. For me, all of the endless hours year round that went into preparing for games is something I really appreciate not having to do anymore. Now I just enjoy tailgating and watching every game. I don’t do any preseason scouting or speculating. I do trust that Coach Harsin has everyone working their butts off though, and I do have high expectations. I would love to see a QB break out early in the year though!
Zach: Bronco Nation would love to know what you are up to these days. How is life treating you?
Aaron: Since Boise State, I had a short stint with the New Orleans Saints and moved back to Boise in 2012. I started working for one of the best companies in Boise - Jitasa. It’s an accounting firm that only serves nonprofit organizations. It was started here in Boise by my CEO, Jeff Russell, about 11 years ago, and has grown to 4 locations worldwide with about 200 employees. I finished my MBA in 2015 and now manage technology and operations within Jitasa. I married my beautiful wife, Molly, and purchased a house in the heart of Boise in 2015 as well, so that was a very eventful year for me. I now spend my winters shredding at Bogus Basin and the summers at Lucky Peak or in the Boise River. I made the full transition to being a Boisean recently by getting a Subaru Outback, so we plan on taking advantage of all of Idaho’s natural beauty in the future. If anyone has any spots they recommend, send me a message!
Zach: Any parting words for Bronco Nation?
Aaron: Thank you for making my time at BSU so great! Coming to Boise was one of the best decisions of my life, and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. Last thing - the fans really make a difference in the games, so please get out to the games and be loud on defense whether the weather is crappy, or we are getting blown out, or we have a losing record. These players put in so many hours and sacrifice so much, so if you are able to, please go cheer them on! Thanks Bronco Nation!
That’s it for this edition of “Blast From the Bronco Past.” Stay tuned for next week’s edition.