Before a pre-season ranking placing the Boise State Broncos as third best in the nation, before two breathtaking Fiesta Bowl championships and before a winning streak that has die-hard fans cheering and opponents scratching their heads, there was Bart Hendricks. Coming to Boise in 1996 as a little-known quarterback recruit from Reno, Nev., Hendricks went on to lead Boise State to bowl games and conference championships. Many pundits still say Hendricks blazed a trail of unprecedented success. It's been a decade since he left the blue turf, but he's still a Bronco at heart.
Do you remember the first time you picked up a football?
I can remember understanding the game even before I was in kindergarten. I used to ride my Big Wheel a few blocks to watch my dad coach. I remember putting on pads when I was 7 years old, and I didn't stop 'til four or five years ago.
Did you play both sides of the ball?
I played every position. I didn't even start playing quarterback until I was in the eighth grade. It's not that I was really good, but I understood the fundamentals of the game.
How did you come to Boise State?
I was recruited by the great Pokey Allen. If you talk to every member of that class [in 1996], they'll tell you that they are die-hard Pokey Allen fans. [Allen died a few months after recruiting the 1996 team.]
Are some of your records still standing?
I really don't think so. There might be. I know that I had the most touchdowns in a season and that stood until just last year when Kellen Moore [Boise State's current starting QB] broke it.
Have you spent time with Kellen Moore?
Oh yeah. He's great. He has an excellent knowledge of the game. You can have all of the physical attributes, but anybody who has superior knowledge of the game is going to do very well.
What do you think of this year's pre-season ranking and the team making the cover of Sports Illustrated?
It's amazing to see the changes at the university just in the 10 years since I was there. I knew we would be ranked and successful, but I didn't think it would ever get to this point.
How much of the success do you attribute to Coach Chris Petersen?
A lot. You start getting successful, and it's easy for athletes to know they're good and relax a little. But that's where a great coach comes in. Even when they've done so much in the past, Coach Pete truly keeps the team focused on the present.
He's a bit of an enigma.
I think he likes that.
And how about this year's season opener against Virginia Tech on Monday, Sept. 6?
It's crazy. It's huge. It seems every year we're playing the biggest game we've ever played. And this one is even bigger than the Fiesta Bowl match-ups.
Tell us a bit about your pro days.
I was a free agent with the San Diego Chargers but I was fighting for a slot against somebody by the name of Drew Brees. And we all know how well he did. [Voted most Valuable Player of the 2010 Super Bowl.] I had some success playing in Frankfurt, Germany, for the NFL Europe league. I loved that. I'm not so sure if the German fans understood everything about the game, but they were really into the atmosphere.
And you played in the Canadian Football League.
I played for the Edmonton Eskimos, and we even won the Grey Cup.
Do you ever consider coaching?
It's crossed my mind a few times lately. I never really committed to it before, but a buddy of mine at Colorado [University] has been bugging me for a while. I think I might consider it. And right now, I'm even coaching an Optimist team.
How old are your players?
They're 10, so you have to keep it simple.
And now you're Coach Hendricks.
I'm having a great time.