Amazing but true—Lashley to the blue

I had been saving these Tony Lashley superlatives for the opening of Idaho’s fall camp in August. Wow, talk about a shift in gears.Lashley, the Vandals’ leading tackler last season, is headed to Boise State as a graduate transfer. Safe to say something like this has never happened before, but it’s a different world we live in. Lashley was a first-team All-Sun Belt linebacker last year, when he recorded double-digit tackles six times for Idaho, including a career-high-tying 16 stops at New Mexico State, equaling the most by a Vandal since 2014. He has 268 career tackles, 26 tackles-for-loss, four fumble recoveries and three blocked kicks. As a high-level player with one season of eligibility left, Lashley will immediately challenge for a starting spot as a Bronco.

Lashley, a 6-1, 236-pounder, has played on the blue turf before. And he’s played against Colorado State before. Lashley logged eight tackles, six of them unassisted, in Idaho’s 61-50 victory over CSU in the 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. His 123 tackles last season were the most by a Vandal since David Vobora in 2007. Lashley had been on the Moscow campus for a long time, as he grayshirted in 2013. And he has quite a back story. He has spent all that time managing school, football and a growing family. Lashley and his wife, Jessica, have four children. “Parent-teacher conferences fall to his wife, because of his football schedule,” noted Peter Harriman in a Spokane Spokesman-Review story last fall. “However, ‘plays and everything, I don’t miss,’ Lashley says firmly.”

Regardless of how you feel about the worthiness of Idaho’s move back to the FCS and the Big Sky, Lashley’s transfer to an old rival is a byproduct of that. He had watched Leighton Vander Esch climb the mock draft boards this winter and spring (the decision to make the move was certainly made before Vander Esch was actually selected in the first round last Thursday). The Vandals have real-deal FBS players, and Lashley topped the list. His chances of being drafted next spring would have diminished in the FCS. Lashley at least has a stage now with a program that is on TV every week and is regularly evaluated by NFL scouts.

Boise State tight end Alec Dhaenens finally has his tryout spot, as the Fruitland High grad will be part of Tampa Bay’s rookie minicamp, joining teammate Ryan Wolpin. Dhaenens, a 6-3, 246-pounder, had an interesting start to his career, catching two passes for four yards and two touchdowns at Air Force in 2014. That was it for receiving stats as a freshman. By the time he was done, Dhaenens had 29 career grabs for 296 yards and six TDs, the last one coming on a tackle-busting 13-yard scoring reception in the Las Vegas Bowl. Just as important to his NFL hopes is his run-blocking ability. Former Boise State coach Dirk Koetter will cut a little slack to Dhaenens and Wolpin in the Buccaneers minicamp. But not a lot.

Elsewhere, Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan has been invited to the Minnesota Vikings rookie minicamp. Linehan passed for 10,752 yards and 62 touchdowns against 43 interceptions in his four-year Vandal career. Linehan’s backfield teammate, running back Aaron Duckworth, will be in Jacksonville’s minicamp after attending the Jaguars’ pre-draft local workout. One of Linehan’s receivers, Jacob Sannon, is getting tryouts with Oakland and Detroit. And one of Linehan’s protecters, offensive lineman Justin Rose, has a rookie minicamp invite from Kansas City. Sannon will be joined in the Raiders’ minicamp by Idaho defensive lineman Akeem Coleman, and Rose will be joined in Chiefs tryouts by Idaho State’s Mario Jenkins, the linebacker out of Nampa’s Columbia High.

What was the NFL Draft like for the Group of 5? Well, with nine picks, the Mountain West came in third. The American Athletic Conference saw 18 players selected and Conference USA 10. Nine doesn’t seem like a lot for the Mountain West, but at least it starts to reverse a downward slide. The conference had eight draft picks in both 2017 and 2016, 10 in 2015 and 12 in 2014. The MAC, by the way, was down to five selections this year; the Sun Belt had four.

With the exception of two third-period goals by Max French Sunday, the Idaho Steelheads have been goose-egged by Colorado in the ECHL Mountain Division Finals. That 1-0 overtime loss in Game 1 last Saturday was the first time Idaho had been shut out since October 21, and just the second time in the last 109 games—regular season and playoffs combined. Going into a pivotal Game 3 tonight in CenturyLink Arena, the Steelheads could use some offense from Steve McParland, who led the team with eight goals and 14 points against the Eagles during the regular season. They also also use some from captain Jefferson Dahl but won’t get a chance tonight, as the ECHL has suspended Dahl for one game as a result of a slew-footing infraction Sunday night.

It’s almost all football today. “Hawaii Five-0” is among the CBS prime-time series lineup renewed for the 2018-19 season, the network has announced. Which makes me hope that Davy Malaythong’s “Xander” character featured in a February, 2017, episode will be revived (I don’t know if that’s even possible). At least its an excuse to talk about the former Boise State tailback, who settled into real life in his native Hawaii after graduation. Malaythong has not only been involved in acting, he’s been a fire dancer and has dabbled in MMA fighting. He rushed for 839 yards and six touchdowns and caught 28 passes with four more scores from 1996-2000. Malaythong scored the winning touchdown for the Broncos in their first bowl game, the 1999 Humanitarian Bowl victory over Louisville.

This Day In Sports…May 2, 1968, 50 years ago today:

Bill Russell celebrates his second season doubling as a player-coach with an NBA championship, as the Boston Celtics defeat the Los Angeles Lakers, four games to two, with a 124-109 victory in Game 6. It was the Celtics’ 10th title in 12 years—they’d win another under Russell’s guidance the following year in his final season. It was also the first time the NBA Finals had lasted into May. Ah, to turn back the hands of time.

(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.)