"The Blue" Not About The Field To Korey Hall

The one-of-a-kind Blue Turf of Bronco Stadium is known all over the country. But when you talk to former Bronco Korey Hall about "The Blue", it conjures up a different meaning.

When the average college football fan hears the term "The Blue" in regards to Boise State football, the glaringly obvious blue turf is the first and (likely) only thing that comes to mind.  To the hard core fans that make up Bronco Nation however, "The Blue" (turf) isn't the defining characteristic of our program at all, it's just one of the many things we that we love about our school.  To this member of Bronco Nation, "The Blue" has an entirely different meaning.  It has a meaning that is so excessively overused by the coaches, players, and writers in college football today that it is all but lost on the average fan of your average program.  That meaning is blue collar.  During a sustained run of success, like the one our program is currently experiencing, I think it's important that we take the time to remember what it is that got us where we are today and to reinforce those ideals so that they don't become lost in the transition.  In other words, we need to remember "The Blue" that drives us.

          Over the past decade Boise State football has distinguished itself as one of the premier programs in the FBS and it has done so with less "talent", a smaller budget, and a distinct lack of palm trees with which to lure in new recruits. You see, Boise State football, the city of Boise , and the state of Idaho don't get things done with large amounts of cash or flashy cars and sunny beaches.  People in this neck of the woods prefer hard work as a means of achieving their goal.  They prefer to be told that they can't accomplish something and then prove those naysayers wrong… and Boise State football has been no exception.

          Of course we owe a lot of our blue collar success to our long line of fantastic coaches as well as our school's outstanding leadership for putting the team in a position to be as successful as they have.  But in the end most of us find it easiest to relate to the players. Ian Johnson is probably the most famous Bronco ever to grace the blue turf in the eyes of the nation but, only as members of the Bronco faithful do we know that he accomplished that feat through hard work and perseverance and not a high profile wedding proposal. Yes, it is safe to say that Ian Johnson knows what "The Blue" really means.  As great as Ian Johnson has been for Boise State football though, if one were to crown a solitary blue collar king of Boise State football… I would claim that one would have to look no further than certain inside linebacker named Korey Hall.

          Korey Hall never gave an interview on ESPN during his time at Boise State .  Nor did he get invited to be on Good Morning America in the days following the Bronco's epic victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.  What he did do though was lead the team in tackles both his junior and senior seasons.  He did become a 3 time first team All-WAC player as well as a second team Sporting News All-American during his senior year.  He was also a 2006 team captain, the same year he led the nation in interceptions by a linebacker, but you'd never hear him say any of it.  Unless of course you asked him and even then it wasn't as if he was able to comfortably discuss his own successes.  It just so happened however that I was lucky enough to find that out for myself during a short interview that took place a few days after the 42-14 blowout of the Oregon State Beavers in 2006.

          Now if you were one that followed the Bronco teams during Korey's tenure closely (2002-2006), you kind of got the sense that he was the no nonsense type.  He wasn't about flash or style per se; he was about getting the job done and doing that the best way he knew how.  As a Bronco and therefore a person who can admire that sort of work ethic, the first thing I wanted to know when I sat down with him was who he had learned it from.  Who was his mentor when he arrived at Boise State ? "Andy Avalos" he replied.  "I learned a lot from him about doing the right stuff on and off the field.  He was a real academic (type) football player" he continued.  "He was a real tough guy. I still talk to him quite a bit."  Most of us probably remember Andy Avalos as an emotional leader on defense and from his famous 92 yard interception return for a touchdown in the 2004 Liberty Bowl.  Andy was another true "undersized", overachieving blue collar talent and is now working as a Graduate Assistant with Dan Hawkins at the University of Colorado .

          Like Andy Avalos, Hall was considered "undersized" and his forty times where "unimpressive" in terms of what most scouts would consider great at the D1 level.  But that didn't hold him back and his team leading six interceptions as a senior lend credence to that statement.  "What gives you your edge?" I asked.  "What makes you stand out as a player?"  He paused for a few moments and I began to get the feeling that he'd never even thought of himself as a standout player.  "That's a tough question." He conceded.  "I try to watch a ton of film and study the game more. You know--have it narrowed down to a couple of plays that they might run.  I'm not necessarily a lot bigger or better than a lot of the (line) backers in the WAC so watching a lot of film is my edge I guess."  NFL Scout's translation: This guy has incredible instincts.

          I got the idea that Korey was in uncomfortable territory at this point, but I wanted see if I couldn't get another uncomfortable question out of the way before moving on.  "What is the greatest football compliment you've ever received?"  I prodded.  He was literally speechless for a few moments. He had nothing and I immediately felt bad for even going there, that's how humble this guy was.  And in the end all I got in response was exactly what you'd expect from the type of player recruited to Boise State .  "You know, I don't really read the papers ever. So I don't hear a lot of that stuff".

          Having reached a dead end so to speak with my previous question I backed off the personal accolades.  "So what about Boise State football, it's becoming pretty big.  It's safe to say that as a program, you guys have arrived on the national scene.  What has been the hardest adjustment you've had to make in terms of being in the spotlight so to speak?"  He chuckled "If you go out somewhere, you can't really act like a jackass.  People just have their eye on you more, it's not like you're just a regular person.  Like if I was going to go out after a game or something and get in trouble.  It'd be in the Statesman the next day."  We both laughed again at that one.

          The interview went on for a little while longer and I was ultimately able to ask all the dorky fan questions I could come up with, but I think the thing that stood out the most to me during my time with Korey was how utterly sincere he was. I'd never met the guy before that day and there I was sitting on the couch in his living room asking him questions about his football career, trying to hide the fact that he was probably my favorite player ever at Boise State .  And there he was answering my questions as humbly and honestly as he could.  I ended up meeting his roommate that day and his mother as she stopped by to make sure he had all the groceries he needed.  His mother took the time to thank me for coming to interview him for crying out loud.  It runs in the family I guess?  That's the type of people we are blessed to be around as members of Bronco Nation and to me that is what "The Blue" is really all about. It's humble; it's hard working, its setting goals and achieving them… It's about playing out of your mind, bigger than your stature, and beyond the expectations.

It is my sincere hope that as a community, a school, and supporters of this truly great football program we are able to remember where we came from.  That we never get too big for our britches. I hope we are able to stay humble and never act as though we're outgrowing certain things, even if in our hearts we know that we are.  Good things will come if we stay true to what got us here. In times like these we need to focus on the little things, we need to study our "game film", whatever that may mean for us as individuals.  And most importantly we need to always respect "The Blue".

 "Alright this is the last one I have for you. What would you want people to remember most about you after you leave here ( Boise State )?" I asked.  "Probably just that I played hard.  That I was a tough player," he concluded.   Mission accomplished Sir.

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