The ‘backers on the blue

It’s Week 2 of voting for Boise State’s “30-Year All-Blue Team,” a suitable exercise for a slow sports time of the year. It’s Week 2 of voting for Boise State’s “30-Year All-Blue Team,” a suitable exercise for a slow sports time of the year. Today, balloting begins for the best linebackers to play on the blue turf from 1986-2015. Again, my esteemed role is to remind fans (or inform those who weren’t born yet) of the Division I-AA era, which covered the Broncos’ first 10 years on the blue. Just like the defensive backfield, it’ll be tough for the blue turf trail-blazers to break through the excellence of the new century. Andy Avalos? Korey Hall? Winston Venable? Tanner Vallejo?

But I do have one Division I-AA guy in particular for you to think about: Jimmy Ellis. He was a senior linebacker and a first-team All-Big Sky pick during the first year of the blue turf. Ellis is still ninth in career tackles at Boise State with 331. He was a 10th-round selection of the L.A. Raiders in the 1987 NFL Draft (back when the draft went that deep). During the NFL strike that season, Ellis was signed by the Raiders and played in three games, starting two.

Then came a pro boxing career, highlighted by a bout against 42-year-old George Foreman in 1991 in Reno. The event was televised live on HBO with Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, and Gil Clancy seated at ringside to call the action. The ring announcer was Michael Buffer of “Let’s get ready to rumble” fame. After a wild first round, Foreman wore down the relentless Ellis with his full arsenal of punches, and the fight was stopped at 1:36 of the third round. “I hit him with a lot of hard shots,” said Foreman in the post-bout interview on HBO. “He must have been a hell of a football player. The guys got a chin like a piece of stone.”

There’s another guy who may slip through the cracks in linebacker voting—partly because, like Hall, he played fullback in the NFL. Bryan Johnson’s Boise State playing career mirrored that of coach Bryan Harsin, from 1996-99. He began as a tight end out of Highland High in Pocatello before moving to ‘backer as a sophomore. Johnson’s one of those guys who saw the program go from the depths of despair in 1996 to the first Humanitarian Bowl mountaintop in 1999. He went undrafted in 2000 but ended up playing four seasons for the Washington Redskins and two more for the Chicago Bears before injuries cut his career short.

Former Boise State star Gerald Alexander, now the secondary coach at Montana State, has been selected for the second straight year to participate in the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship. Alexander will be a guest coach at Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp (where he’ll be able to connect with fellow former Bronco Doug Martin). Alexander spent time with the Tennessee Titans in the program last summer. The annual training camp fellowship was launched by Walsh in 1987 to create more job opportunities for minority coaches.

The Boise Hawks are calling them the “first wave” of players as they embark on their 30th season, and they’ll arrive this afternoon from Phoenix. The first wave will consist of guys who are already part of the Colorado Rockies organization. Still to come are the 2016 draft picks, to be determined as the Major League Draft unfolds beginning tomorrow (the Rockies have the No. 4 overall selection). The Hawks open the season a week from Friday at Eugene. Meanwhile, Another former Hawk has made the bigs. Albert Almora made his debut for the Cubs last night in their 3-2 loss at Philadelphia. Almora, a 22-year-old outfielder, pinch-hit in the sixth inning and grounded out. He played for Boise four seasons ago, batting .292 in 15 games. Almora is the 117th Hawks alum to play in the majors.

The NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships open today at legendary Hayward Field in Eugene, and Boise State’s David Elliott gets out of the gate tonight. Elliott will run in the semifinals of the 1,500-meters as he seeks to become the first distance runner in Bronco history to earn four All-America honors. Elliott left it all on the track at the NCAA West Preliminary Round, earning his spot in nationals by seven-thousandths of a second. Boise State’s Brenna Peloquin runs in the finals of the 10,000-meters tomorrow night, while Minttu Hukka competes in the semifinals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Already an All-American, Northwest Nazarene javelin thrower Ellie Logan picked up another honor this week following her debut season of track and field, as the redshirt freshman from Fossil, OR, has been named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year. She was also the leading scorer last season for the NNU women’s basketball team, averaging 13.9 points per game. Logan was a sophomore in eligibility in hoops. Elsewhere, Colby Blaine is on the rise at the College of Idaho. C of I men’s basketball coach Scott Garson has promoted Blaine to associate head coach as he enters his third season with the Yotes. Blaine, a former Boise Brave, had previously spent five years on the staff at College of Southern Idaho.

This Day In Sports…June 8, 1966, 50 years ago today:

The National Football League, founded in the early 1920’s, and the American Football League, which began play in 1960, announce a merger. Although the two leagues would continue to play separate schedules until 1970, there would be a common draft—and a title game pitting the champions of the two leagues beginning in January, 1967. That would become Super Bowl I.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)