A positive microscope for Mason Hampton

“Watch list season” is upon us, and Boise State’s Mason Hampton is included out of the gate on the spring watch list for the Rimington Trophy that goes to the nation’s top center. That’s a Matt Paradis-type leap for the one-time walk-on from Meridian High. Hampton was tasked last season with replacing All-Mountain West center Marcus Henry, and he started all 11 games in which he appeared. With Hampton directing traffic, the Broncos’ sacks-allowed total dropped from 31 in 2015 to 19 last year. A byproduct was the Mountain West’s top-ranked offense and the country’s 15th-ranked passing offense. Hampton also became only the fifth Bronco ever to be named a first-team Academic All-American.

Hampton will anchor a re-tooled Boise State offensive line this coming season, with left tackle Archie Lewis the only other returning starter. But it could be better than last year’s, with high hopes for junior college transfers Isiah Moore and Zach Troughton. The Broncos staved off UCLA late in the recruiting process to land Moore, who will arrive this summer. Troughton transferred in at semester and got invaluable reps in spring football while four key guys, including Hampton, sat out with injuries. Then there’s Ezra Cleveland, who opened eyes by being named Boise State’s Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year in 2016, and John Molchon, a key reserve last fall. A shot in the dark for a starting five: Hampton, Lewis, Cleveland, Moore and Molchon—with the one who plays left tackle to be determined.

Now, is Hampton’s Rimington Award watch list announcement worth a Boise State press conference? How about the “Select Your Seat” Open House tomorrow night at Albertsons Stadium (in an attempt to fire up season ticket sales)? Or the “Helmets & Heels” women’s clinic next week? Or the upcoming start of the summer’s player-run practices? These items have never warranted a Bryan Harsin presser before, but the Bronco coach has one scheduled early this afternoon. Turns out the gathering’s purpose is to unveil a new-look Boise State uniform. Word is it won’t be drastically different from the current one, which traces its origin back to 2009. Here’s hoping the numerical font doesn’t change.

Now you see him, now you don’t. Pierce Johnson was called up by the Cubs last Thursday. Then Friday night, he became the 125th former Boise Hawk to make the majors, and the first this year to make his debut. In a 6-3 loss to Milwaukee, Johnson was summoned to work the sixth inning against the Brewers. The 25-year-old righthander allowed two hits and walked a batter while yielding two runs, but neither run was earned. But Saturday, Johnson was sent back to Triple-A Iowa. So—until next time—his big league ERA will stay at 0.00. Johnson made four appearances for the Hawks in 2012 with no decisions and an ERA of 4.50.

Former Vallivue High golfer Gabby Barker has gone on to star status at Texas Tech, wrapping up her junior year competing at the NCAA Championships yesterday just outside of Chicago. The Red Raiders finished 22nd as Barker carded a one-over 73. She finished 17th at the NCAA Lubbock Regional a couple weeks ago to help the Red Raiders to their third nationals bid in school history. Barker’s one of the state’s premiere female golfers—she was the 2013 Idaho Women’s Amateur champion, and she won the 2014 Girls 5A title by 26 strokes.

Barker has also become beloved among Native Americans as a member of the Shoshone-Paiute tribe. The Indian Country Today Media Network has been following Barker’s career. She told the outlet last summer she wants to make an impact in Native American communities with her never-give-up spirit. “My dad grew up on a reservation a couple hours away and we heard the stories of what it was like for him growing up,” Barker said. “But I wouldn’t say I grew up traditional,” Barker said. “I’d still like to encourage Natives, not so much to play golf, but just to go to college. You can excel and get a higher education or even play sports if you want to. What I want to do after college is become a high school counselor, preferably on a reservation. I think I could mentor kids, and help them if they want to go to college.”

There are obviously no local ties in the NBA conference finals, but as the Golden State Warriors sweep their way into the NBA Finals, they do carry two players Boise State has experience with: former Nevada forward JaVale McGee and one-time UNLV guard Patrick McCaw. As much talent as the Warriors have, McGee and McCaw have been contributors during this record 12-0 playoff run.

The Broncos happened to corral each player in key conference games once upon a time. McGee declared for the NBA Draft after his sophomore year with the Wolf Pack and was selected 18th overall by the Washington Wizards in 2008. One of Boise State’s key wins during its WAC championship year in 2008 was a 77-68 decision in Taco Bell Arena. McGee was held to three points on 1-for-9 shooting. McCaw was a Rebel two years ago when the Broncos won their first-ever game at the Thomas & Mack Center. McCaw was 2-for-10 from the field and scored five points in UNLV’s 53-48 loss that night.

We talk often of the injustice of Jerry Kramer being left out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The passing of Kramer’s college roommate at Idaho, Wayne Walker, brings the latter into the conversation. Walker was a starter for all 15 seasons he played in Detroit, and when he retired he held the Lions’ team record with 200 games played. Not only did he make three Pro Bowls, he was also a kicker, booting 53 field goals and 172 extra points. As a linebacker, he notched touchdowns on a pick-six and a scoop-and-score fumble recovery and had 14 career interceptions. Walker was part of Detroit’s all-time team in 2008, commemorating the Lions’ 75th anniversary. Walker should get Hall of Fame consideration, too. He’s one of five Idaho Vandals to have his number retired (the others are Kramer, John Yarno, Ken Hobart and John Friesz).

This Day In Sports…May 23, 1998:

Having just pitched a perfect game against Minnesota—that coming after retiring the final 10 batters in his previous start against Kansas City—the Yankees’ David Wells extends his AL-record string of consecutive outs to 38 when Red Sox leadoff hitter Darren Lewis grounds out in the first inning. However, his streak would come to an end when Boston’s second batter, Darren Bragg, reached base on a short, high pop that was lost in the sun. The Yankees went on to win nevertheless, 12-3.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)