From Boise State to Boise

Phil Bartle, Michel Bourgeau, Kerry Lawyer and Jason Payne lend personal insight into the decisions that recruits make, why Boise State is the place to be, and their experiences playing football for the Broncos.

People outside of Boise may be shocked to learn that some of the nation's top recruits are coming to Boise State.  Earlier in the 30-Day Countdown, we presented an article called "A Haven to Call Home" that outlines many attributes of the city of Boise.  The city itself is a major reason why the Broncos get so many outstanding student-athletes.  Nestled alongside the Boise River which winds throughout the Boise Valley and surrounded by the foothills to the North and the Owyhee mountains to the South, the university is in a picturesque setting.  To fully understand the appeal of Boise to recruits, I turned to four former Broncos.


Phil Bartle (1983-1986) was a defensive back on the best Bronco defense in 16 years (1986) as the Big Blue allowed just 269.3 yards per game that year.  The '86 defense not only shutout Humboldt State (77-0) but Montana (31-0) as well.  Bartle and that Bronco team allowed a mere 2.1 yards per rushing attempt, the third best defensive performance in the history of the Broncos.  For the season, the '86 team allowed just 80.3 rushing yards per game, also third all-time.  Phil is currently working for the Tile Outlet selling porcelain, ceramics and natural stone.  One of Lawyer's fellow employees is former Bronco quarterback and college roommate Vince Alcalde.


Michel Bourgeau (1980-1983) played nose guard for the Broncos, was a member of the 1980 Division I-AA National Championship team, was named All-Big Sky in both 1981 and 1983, was an honorable mention All-American in '81 and  played in the Blue-Gray College All-Star Game his senior season.  He ranks 15th all-time in career tackles for loss with 25.  Following graduation, Michel was drafted in the 12th round of the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.  He decided to sign with the Ottawa Rough Riders of the CFL, where he played five years before going to the Edmonton Eskimos for another five years.  Bourgeau was elected into the Bronco Hall of Fame in 1993.  He was recently promoted to full-time Varsity B Coordinator and development officer for athletics.  Michel works closely with athletic alumni to both keep them in touch with Boise State and the University tuned to their needs.  Prior to that, Bourgeau worked in technology for Extended Systems and Hewlett Packard, both in Boise.


Kerry Lawyer (1991-1993) ranks third in Bronco history with a 28.0 kickoff return average (16-448) in 1993.  Kerry's 23.9 career average (53-1,269) is still fifth all-time.  Lawyer is holding on to second place with a 12.9 career punt return average (61-768).  He also places third in season statistics with an 18.0 punt return average in 1992 (18-325); he held the Bronco record until Chris Carr's 2004 season and Quinton Jones' mark last year.  The speedster has the third most career punt returns (61) and the seventh most punt return yards in a game (111), which he achieved in a 1993 game against Eastern Washington.  After football and track, Kerry spent many years in the technology sector with companies like MPC, The Network Group and Fiberpipe (all with ties to Boise State).  Kerry is now in the medical device industry in surgery most of the time.  He works for a distributor in Boise that has various implants for mostly sports-related injuries.  One of the companies he represents is a bracing line that outfits most of the Bronco offensive lineman.  As Kerry says, "It seems like I always have some sort of tie-in to the folks at the Varsity Center!"


Jason Payne (1994-1997) remains tied for second all-time with his three-interception performance against Weber State in 1995.  He and his teammates lived Bronco history in 1996 when Boise State ushered in a new era of Bronco football—Division I-A.   Jason and his family moved back to Boise just two weeks ago.  He and his wife are opening a meal preparation business in Boise.  People will visit the company website, select entrees, come into the retail kitchen on Broadway Avenue and prepare meals for the month.  Meals can be put in the freezer and defrosted when needed.  "This is great for families with children involved in sports, singles who can't cook well and are sick and tired of eating fast food or hamburger helper every other night!" he says.


Lawyer told me he was recruited by USC, Arizona State, Baylor, SMU and Washington but they all wanted him to play football only.  Boise State was the one which offered him the opportunity to both run track and play football.  Lawyer won six conference championships and was a five-time NCAA qualifier in track and field.  The highlight for him was running in the 110-meter dash in the NCAA National Track and Field Championships in front of Bronco Nation when Boise State hosted the event in 1999.


Bartle said he came to Boise State because he wanted to be a champion.  A graduate of Ontario (OR) High School, he watched the Broncos win a national championship in 1980 and "I knew then that I wanted to play for Boise State," Bartle said.  "I was offered several recruiting trips after my senior year.  But I only accepted one...Boise State."


According to Payne, Boise State Head Coach Pokey Allen and assistant Ron Gould were the two main reasons why he came to Boise.  "Pokey and Coach Gould were two of the brightest football minds I have ever known," Payne remarked.  "They were honest and straightforward with everyone and wanted all of their players to succeed in life, not only on the football field."


Bourgeau came to Boise State because they took the time and did their homework.  He tells the story of how Montreal Alouette coach Joe Scanella and Boise State Defensive Coordinator Lyle Setencich knew each other and Scanella had told Setencich about Bourgeau.  When Bronco Hall of Famer Doug Scott graduated and went to Montreal to announce he was signing with the Alouettes, he had instructions from Setencich and Bronco Head Coach Jim Criner to "check him out".  Scott's report was very positive and Bourgeau received a scholarship offer in May of 1980 from the Broncos.


That's how the four got here.  What about their experience playing for the Broncos?


Lawyer describes it this way "Boise State is a fantastic program that I will cherish forever.  My football career did not end the way I had hoped, but my overall experience was unforgettable.  I can only image the young guys today.  It is amazing that, even 13 years after I finished up, folks here still recognize my name and some can recall certain big plays, etc.  As a fan now, we all need to continue to support this program through thick and thin."


Bartle mentioned the loud crowd at Bronco Stadium and was also impressed by how Boise State fans would remember who he was, when he played and recall games he played in.  Bartle recalls that "after game days I would always eat breakfast at Manley's on Federal Way.  For several years after I was done playing I continued eating breakfast on Sunday's after games during football season at Manley's.  The waitress (in her 60's) at Manley's thought I was still playing and would always congratulate me for playing great on Saturday.  I never had the heart to tell her I wasn't playing anymore."


Payne describes the crowd this way:  "There was nothing like running out of the locker room in front of 30,000 screaming fans that bleed blue and orange.  We were treated like celebrities around town.  Especially after the '94 season.  That was the season that catapulted Bronco football into what it is today."  Payne adds, "I've been to a lot of college and pro football games and Boise State has some of the top fans in all of the country...SEC included!"


Bourgeau notes, "From the first day I arrived in Boise, the fans were very welcoming.  Bronco fans were behind us 100%."  Bourgeau was pushed into a starting role his freshman year after an injury to Steve Sosnowski. 


After graduating, opportunities existed everywhere, but these four chose Boise.  Lawyer says "What can you say badly about Boise?  It was an easy decision to stay here.  Fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, endless mountain biking, a fun vibrant downtown.  But most importantly, people say "Hello!" and are for the most part genuine."


For Bartle, he moved elsewhere initially.  The experience him appreciate Boise even more.  "You never truly understand how great Boise is until you move away.  Floating the river, fishing, camping, snow/water skiing, downtown nightlife, etc. is taken for granted."  He recently moved back to Boise after living in Phoenix for four years while working as a program coordinator at the Arizona State W.P. Carey School of Business.  Bartle explains that "ASU is a huge school, and there is no sense of caring for one another between faculty, staff and students like at Boise State.  It was dog-eat-dog."


Payne is starting a business in Boise because of the growth of the area and the potential for further growth over the next 5-10 years.  Another reason Payne decided to move back to the area is because "we also have a 10-year-old daughter and a 7-yeaer-old son and Boise is a great place to raise a family," Payne said.  "With the new school bond that passed, the schools will be improved as well."   Payne adds, "The number one reason for moving back and calling Boise home again is because of "Boise State Football!" and the fans that made this place so great for the four years I played here."


Bourgeau's move back to Boise after playing professional football for ten years was in the plan all along.  His wife Jill is from the area and her family is here.  Plus for Michel, he felt that Boise would provide the couple with some great job opportunities which it did.


Each of the four former Broncos also looked at Boise State football today and had this to say:


Lawyer:  "Coming to Boise State is truly an honor nowadays.  You get multiple ESPN games, a staff that has tons of experience winning, and the backing of a University that is riding the wave just like all of us.  The indoor practice facility is fantastic, stadium expansion is here, and the Broncos get games against some of the best teams in college football."


Bartle:  "I live vicariously through the current players.  I always wanted to be a champion and these players have re-established a winning tradition.  I am very proud of them.  To pay for Boise State is to play for a champion and to be a Bronco for life."


Bourgeau:  "Boise State will offer any athlete a very competitive athletic experience.  We compete in a very good conference and will provide great national exposure.  The competition is fierce, and any athlete who wants to represent Boise State has to understand that not only are the expectations high athletically, we require that all student-athletes dedicate themselves in the classroom.  In other words, the student-athlete needs to understand that athletics and academics are tightly intertwined."


Payne:  "High school football players today would be foolish if they didn't seriously consider Boise State for its excellent education and top-notch football program.  They have 110% support from the administration, students and community.  Once you play Bronco football, you are a part of the community forever and are always welcome back!"    


Most fans can only speculate on what college football players go through and the factors that guide their decisions.  I would like to say a heartfelt "Thank-you!" to each of these four great Broncos for taking the time to give us insight.  We wish all of them the best of luck now and in the future!


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