BOISE, Idaho - As their teammates ran through their drills under a broiling sun on the first morning of double sessions, Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman and punter Brad Elkin toiled in relative seclusion on an adjacent field at Boise’s East Junior High School.
With Elkin standing behind a set of goalposts, Brotzman, a sophomore from Meridian, booted football after football from a tee in Elkin’s direction, trying to split the uprights from about 40 yards away. Elkin, in turn, would punt the balls back toward Brotzman. On the other fields, the shrill sound of whistles filled the air and Bronco coaches barked instructions to the offensive and defensive squads as Brotzman and Elkin continued their ritual.
Such are the isolated and relegated roles playedby kickers and punters during these long, grueling summer practice sessions.
“We’re kind of used to it,” said Brotzman. “We don’t get too bummed out about it. They [the other players] are working hard, and we’re working hard ourselves to get something done and make ourselves better.”
Brotzman probably has good reason to seem confident. While the battle for quarterback and other starting positions will be at a fever pitch during the next few weeks as the Broncos prepare for their season opener on Aug. 30 against Idaho State, Brotzman is one player who based on his performance last season is certain to keep his starting job.
After he led the Western Athletic Conference in field goals, field goal percentage and PAT kicking in 2007, Brotzman was an honorable mention Freshman All-America selection by the Sporting News. Given his numbers last year, it’s easy to see why: He made 16-of-18 of his field goal attempts, including 3-for-4 beyond 40 yards, and all 66 of his extra-point tries. He was also a second-team All-WAC selection and was named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to college football’s top kicker each year.
As the Broncos head into the 2008 season, Brotzman has been named a preseason honorable mention All-American by NationalChamps.net. His consecutive PAT streak of 66 is the third-longest in Boise State history and just nine away from the school record. His most memorable performance last year came during the Broncos’ four overtime win over Nevada in which he made two field goals with no time on the clock that sent game into overtime and quadruple overtime. An unknown freshman at the time, Brotzman handled the pressure like a seasoned veteran
“I don’t think too much about it,” he said of the tense situations almost all kickers eventually face. “You’ve just got to prepare yourself for it. I don’t think a lot about [the pressure]. I just go out there and kick.”
Brotzman’s relaxed and confident demeanor is one of the reasons special teams coach Jeff Choate considers him a gifted performer and a key player in the special teams’ plans.
“He really works extremely hard and put on some weight in the off-season,” said Choate. “He’s just a great competitor; one of those kids you don’t mind being the guy who’s got the ball in his hands when the game’s on the line.”
There’s another dimension that Brotzman’s athletic skills possibly offer the Broncos. At Meridian High School he lettered in football, basketball and soccer two times each. In addition to kicking for the Warrior football team, he was an all-league honorable mention selection as a wide receiver his senior year with 22 catches for 379 yards and three touchdowns.
Given Boise State’s penchant for trick plays, does Brotzman have any hope of throwing or catching the football on an apparent field goal attempt?
“That’s up to the coaches,” he said. “They may have a few tricks up their sleeve with me in mind, but I don’t know of any yet.”
Choate certainly is not ruling out such a possibility. “I think Kyle is good enoughof an athlete that he allows us to take a look at those kinds of things when we install our game plans,” the coach said. “We’re going to take what the other teams give us, whether it’s on offense, defense or special teams. But it’s definitely nice to have a kid with his athleticism to give us some of those options.”
And if a play involving Brotzman’s pass-catching abilityworks its way into Boise State’s playbook, maybe he will have the opportunity to do more than kick football after football to Elkin during practice.