Rufus and Gerald

Two cousins, Rufus and Gerald, took very different paths before the 2007 Fiesta Bowl game and two different paths since that epic game.

     Let me preface this article by saying that it is directed toward the vast majority of newer fans to the program.  I have come late to the show, having started following Boise State football around the Louisville year and Ryan Dinwiddie's career.  I still remember the Louisville game and the first TCU game, but even then I was not a huge follower of the program.  I have lived in this area since 1994, but I still had so many other things pulling at me that I had not yet truly discovered Bronco football and the joys of following the program.  Boise State is a program and school that seemed to be getting things right with their priorities.  However, this is not to say that all may not find some things of interest in the article and even some new information.  Anyway, I digress.  Most of my information comes from a book entitled "Blue Collar Mentality" by Tom Barbour, a longtime resident of Boise , self-described football junkie, and now a resident of Southern California . Credit to where credit is due.  

     In 2001, two cousins Rufus and Gerald Alexander were on separate journeys, one starting out in the Deep South and the other on the west coast.  Gerald was an all league Most Valuable Player representing Rancho Cucamonga , California excelling in both track and playing quarterback in football.  Rufus was an outstanding nationally recognized athlete who was rescued from abject poverty by surrogate parents David and Linda Barham in Breaux Bridge , Louisiana .  Sound familiar?  Gerald was a good athlete but received a grand total of two offers.  Gerald was considered too small with only average speed.  Rufus had multiple offers and finally chose Oklahoma .  Gerald chose a program that had only been Division I for six years and was working on its fifth coach in seven years.  

     Five years later, both players were closing out their final years as fifth-year seniors.  During Rufus's stellar career at Oklahoma he had been selected to three All-American teams as a linebacker and as a senior was named the Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year.  Gerald was finishing a solid but unspectacular career as a cornerback and finally as a safety in his senior year.  This switch to safety was to have unexpected and spectacular results for Gerald and his future.  

     Gerald had never really flourished at cornerback during his first three years at Boise State .  Coach Marcel Yates, with the blessing of new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox moved Gerald to safety between his junior and senior years.  Gerald came to Boise State as a skinny 6 foot, 170-pound kid and was now up to 205 pounds of weight room muscle.  He hit with a force that could and did knock off opponents' helmets.  Gerald's speed, intensity, and heart made him a natural at safety.  The work and time he put in during his first four years at cornerback had finally come full circle and he had found his natural position.  

     During his senior year, Gerald had to learn and grow into his new position and he started out slowly.  Finally, about halfway through the season, Gerald started to put together his talent with his other attributes and showed flashes that would later lead to great things for the young man.  By the time the Fiesta Bowl came in 2007, Gerald was a polished and solid safety ready to perform at the highest level.  It was in this bowl game that he made a name for himself with National Football League scouts. Gerald intercepted a pass, ran down Adrian Peterson at the goal line for a loss and demonstrated that he had indeed learned his lessons well. Incidentally, it was during the week leading up to the game that Gerald and Rufus finally met for the first time.  

     Still, Gerald was not guaranteed an invite to the Scouting Combine, while Rufus had an engraved invitation awaiting him.  Rufus had also played well in the Fiesta Bowl, making seventeen tackles and was being touted as a first day pick, while Gerald was not even sure he would receive an invite to the combine.  Gerald did get his invite and showed very well, posting a 4.5 40-yard speed, a 41-inch vertical, and finishing near the top in all other agility drills.  Rufus unfortunately had a very poor showing and posted numbers well below what was expected of a high-round draft pick.  

     Gerald was hoping for a second-round pick on draft day, but also realized he might not get picked at all.  However on April 28th, 2007 , while he was doing his laundry, a call came from the NFL informing him that he was the 61st pick overall by the Detroit Lions.  Detroit had actually made two trades to move up in the draft so they could select Gerald.  The Lions had done their homework and recognized the potential of Gerald.  His cousin Rufus was not selected until pick number 176 of the 6th round by Minnesota .  

     Gerald went on to have a solid season with Detroit , playing all 16 games as their starting safety before injuring his knee.  He was later traded to Jacksonville where he now plies his wares.  Rufus was not so lucky.  In his first preseason game, he tore his ACL and ended his season.  Rufus went on to play with three teams; Minnesota , Indianapolis , and Detroit , and is now a free agent.  I dare say the future looks bright for Gerald while not so bright for Rufus, but one can hope that both cousins have long and productive careers.  

     I will leave the readers to draw whatever conclusions they care to from this story.  For me, it once again demonstrates why Boise State has been so successful.  The Bronco Staff takes a  young man that was not heavily recruited and the player puts in a tremendous amount of work to make himself the best athlete he can be (which goes directly to character).  The Bronco coaches find the best fit for the young man, and then put him in a position where he can succeed.  This is a large part of the "Blue Collar Mentality" to me and it is the blueprint why Boise State should remain at a high level of play indefinitely.  

     A quote from former Fresno State tackle, Bobby Lepori, may sum up the Boise State mindset better than anyone else has been able to.  "The number one thing that Boise does is—it is team over individual. You just have people that are selfless.  They don't care if they get a stat.  They don't care if they don't get their name in the paper.  Honestly, watching them on film is like watching a machine.  They're never off beat.  They just do a great job.  In '06, those guys knew what they were doing.  Well before we even snapped a ball, they were calling out our formations, calling out our plays.  That doesn't come from our bad play calling; that comes from hours and hours of film study.  Kids just don't dedicate themselves the way Boise does". That pretty much sums it up for me too.

 

 

Some extra fun facts I found while perusing through this book.

 

1.  Borah High School was the big dog in the state from the late 50's well into the 80's.  None other than Ara Parsegian of ND fame reportedly said that Borah repeatedly was one of the best programs in the United States .  Both he and Tommy Prothro of UCLA came often to recruit the talent from this Boise school.  Borah supplied much of the talent to the BSU teams of that era, including some amazing All-American talent.  

2.  Boise State Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier was a Borah High player in the seventies.  He went on to play at UCLA on full scholarship and became a star tight end.  

3.  There is a "Brock Forsey" award still given out by a group of Chicago fans to the player who best exemplifies the qualities that the Chicago Bears are known for; toughness, excelling in the absence of great athletic ability, and getting the job done in the face of adversity.  The award pretty much sums up to me the qualities of the whole BSU team, although the "absence of great athletic ability" phrase has changed drastically.  I still feel Brock got a raw deal with Chicago and should have been given more of a chance.  If anyone had ever been destined to be a Chicago Bear, it would definitely be Brock Forsey. He epitomized the essence of what it was to be a Bear.  

4.  Since 1999, Boise State has averaged four starters or key-backups who were former non-scholarship players (walk-ons).  That is by far the highest percentage in the nation.


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