Like the rest of his Boise State teammates, Ryan Winterswyk is anxious for Friday morning’s practice. That’s when the Broncos finally! will don full pads and have some fun, says the defensive end.
Since Monday morning when they began their fall camp in preparation for the 2008 football season, the Broncos have endured grueling drills and scrimmages veterans in the morning and newcomers in the afternoon at Boise’s East Junior High in helmets and shorts, adding shoulder pads on Wednesday.
The players’ lack of full body armor, however, has not precluded a few, um, run-ins on the field. After four days of full-speed, but non-contact, offense vs. defense scrimmages there has been the occasional, uh, “disagreement” as tempers flare and bodies collide in the withering August heat.
“The intensity is really high,” said Winterswyk. “Just with helmets during practice, there are people banging heads and getting into it. Today [Wednesday] with shoulder pads on, I’m sure the intensity level will go up even more.”
Come Friday, when the veterans and newcomers practice together for the first time, the players will be in full gear. No doubt, most of them are looking forward to venting some pent-up aggression when practice starts.
“Yeah, players get a little mad at times [during non-contact drills],” said Winterswyk with a smile. “That will be fun Friday when everyone gets together. Hopefully, we’ll be working on our technique as well as our intensity.”
And Winterswyk is likely to be right in the middle of it. Following Monday’s first sessions, he was named Camper of the Day by head coach Chris Petersen. “Great effort,” said Petersen of Winterswyk’s performance. “He’s a veteran guy for us now; he knows the intensity we need to play with and win with, and he sure had it on day one.”
A 6-foot-4, 268-pound sophomore from La Habra, Calif., Winterswyk was named the Broncos’ 2007 most outstanding defensive lineman following his freshman season. He finished the year with 43 tackles, a team-best nine tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and four pass breakups. He also had a season-high eight tackles against Weber State in the ’07 season opener. As a result of those numbers, he earned freshman honorable mention All-America recognition from the
Sporting News and enters the 2008 season as one of the Broncos’ top defensive players.
Interestingly, when Winterswyk joined the BSU football program as a walk-on in 2006, he initially planned to try out as a safety, his defensive position in high school. “I played tight end and a little bit of wide receiver on offense in high school and ran track, so I thought I was fairly fast,” he said.
A knee injury initially derailed Winterswyk’s plans to earn a football scholarship. “I thought I was going to go the junior-college route,” he said. “But one of my high school coaches talked to coach [Marcel] Yates [BSU’s defensive backs coach] about me, and he suggested I grayshirt and try to walk on at Boise State.”
From the get-go, the Bronco coaching staff knew Winterswyk, who weighed 225 pounds in high school, wasn’t destined for the secondary. “We looked at him and knew he wasn’t going to be a safety,” said Petersen. “He was going to slide down a position to linebacker, or so we thought. But once we got him on the field and saw that he could move pretty well with that frame, we thought he would be an ideal defensive end.”
“People told me I would probably play outside linebacker in college, which was fine,” he said, “but I didn’t see myself as a defensive lineman at the time. When they first told me they were moving me to defensive end, I thought, You’ve got to be kidding me.’”
Said Petersen, “Now, you never know how changing a player’s position is going to work in terms of how they train, their toughness, and how motivated they are. But Ryan has been unbelievable in all those categories.”
Said Yates, “Once he got here, we realized that he had good size and was pretty athletic, so we moved him to defensive end. I don’t think he necessarily wanted to play safety. I think he just wanted a chance to prove he could play here. He has, and he’s played well. He’s a great kid and a hard worker. He’s done everything we’ve asked and more. His progress is ahead of schedule, and I would say he’s a better player than we thought he was going to be.”
From Winterswyk’s perspective, the transition has worked out just fine.
“It was kind of rough at first,” he said, “but in the summer [of 2007] I kind of caught on and things have kind of flowed smoothly after that. That’s my niche here now.”