Picking Boise like a hit from blind side
By Ferd Lewis
It was not uncommon this past football season for Punahou School safety Jeremy Ioane to wallop opponents so hard their helmets went rolling on the turf.
But yesterday he did something that really knocked people in several time zones for a loop:
He turned down a football scholarship from Notre Dame to accept one from Boise State.
With caps from several suitor schools arrayed in front of him yesterday, as is the custom at Pacific Island Athletic Alliance national letter of intent signing ceremony, Ioane donned the blue and orange of the Broncos.
Ioane didn't look out at the jam-packed crowd at the Sheraton Waikīkī Kaua'i Ballroom as he pulled the cap to a snug fit, but if he had, the quiet, humble, two-way performer would have seen wide surprise, if not outright buzz of amazement his choice stirred.
Likewise in South Bend, Ind., we're sure, because people there say it was the first time someone picked the blue turf over the golden dome. The home of seven Western Athletic Conference titles over 11 consensus national championships. The legacy of Lyle Smith and Dan Hawkins over Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy. Buster Bronco over The Four Horsemen.
University of Hawai'i fans might not be too happy, either. For on a day when all of the top 10 prospects on The Advertiser's Top 25 list chose to go out of state, Ioane went to the Warriors' rival and tormentor.
Once upon a distant time, Hawai'i products figured in Boise State's rise from a junior college to a small college power. But it has been ages since a top drawer prospect from Hawai'i went to Boise State. Kamehameha's David Hughes (1977-80) and Moloka'i's Kimo von Oelhoffen (1992-93) come to mind.
Is there another pipeline, a la Brigham Young University of the past, in the construction? Broncos' coach Chris Petersen, who welcomed Ioane as "a heckuva player" and "a heckuva fit" said he'd sure like to start one.
If so, its beginning comes quite by accident and in the face of so many opportunities for Ioane to say "no."
Luck of the Irish paled, in this episode, to the blessings of the Broncos. Boise State was here to play UH in October when its coaches took in some games, including the Punahou-Pac-Five game, and stumbled upon a highlight video in the making. Buffanblu coach Kale Ane said Ioane played both ways — including catching a pass and taking it 80 yards for a touchdown as a wide receiver and making two helmet-dislodging hits as a safety — in the 35-12 victory.
"They offered me (a scholarship) right then, that night," Ioane said. So, too, eventually, did UH, Washington, Iowa, Florida State, Arkansas ... well, you get the idea.
And none of the other recruiting trips included weather delays in transit, a canceled flight, a long bus ride from Idaho Falls and a freezing 3 a.m. arrival on campus. Or the expectation that the defensive coordinator was on his way out to Tennessee.
So, the rumor, indeed the expectation, around the Punahou campus Tuesday was that Ioane would follow former teammates Manti Te'o and Roby Toma to Notre Dame.
Not until Tuesday night, Ioane said, did he make up his mind. And when he did after talking with his family, Ioane said it was in large part because he liked the school, the coaches, the setting and the way the Boise State program has taken off.
In that Ioane's signing is yet another indication of the shooting star the Broncos have become while being additional testament to the spread of their reputation.
For people of earlier generations, the choice of the Broncos over the Fighting Irish is so startling as to approach blasphemy. But when you are a teenager, someone born after the Fighting Irish last won a national championship in 1988 and living in the here and now with a revolving door on the head coach's office, maybe it isn't that much of a stretch.
Ioane has vivid memories of the unbeaten Broncos in the Fiesta Bowl and their expanding string of Top 20 seasons. The Fighting Irish? Not so much.
Te'o was a student of football history. Ioane apparently less so. Though he, like Te'o, Ane says, embraces the challenge of following his own path.
Yesterday, with a swift scrawl of the pen and strength of conviction, Ioane embarked on one hardly anybody saw coming.