Sports

Split personality

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

Wes Nurse plays football how it’s supposed to be played.

Hard-nosed and to the point. The senior free safety on the Boise State University Bronco football team would make the old-timers who donned leather helmets proud.

Off the football field, the 1999 graduate of Decatur High School is an easy-going, genuinely-nice individual, who is a solid student in the classroom and basically gets along with everyone.

Things change when Nurse steps between the sidelines.

“Wes has a ton of different nicknames,” said Robert Tucker, Nurse’s safety coach at Boise State. “We call him Dirty Wes, Crazy Wes and Super Wes. Because he is dirty, acts crazy and plays super. Wes plays the game with reckless abandon. But he is a very, very intelligent player and his teammates love him.”

Nurse and the rest of his Boise State teammates, which include fellow Decatur grad Kevin Louwsma, are one of six one-loss teams in Division I college football. The Broncos, the Western Athletic Conference champions, will take on one of the others, Texas Christian University (12-1), in the Fort Worth Bowl in Texas Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m..

“Wes has a tremendous work ethic, is extremely competitive, a great leader, very humble, very tough and all those things allow him to use his athletic ability to the fullest,” said Boise State head coach Dan Hawkins.BNurse is not the fastest guy in the world or the biggest. He runs a 4.7-second 40-yard dash, stands just 5-foot-9 and is listed at 189 pounds. The prototypical Division I and National Football League free safety runs in the 4.4- to 4.5-range, stands 6-foot and tips the scales at over 200 pounds.

“But you can’t show me a better defensive back in the (Western Athletic Conference),” Tucker said.

That feeling was cemented last week when Nurse was named WAC first-team all-league. During his senior season, Nurse led the Broncos with five interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, and was third on the team with 84 tackles, behind a pair of linebackers.

“Football has been working out pretty good for me after high school,” Nurse admitted.

Nurse was also a pretty good all-around athlete during his three-year career at Decatur. A stint where Nurse was known more for his triple-jumping ability on the Gator track team then intercepting passes on the football field.

As a senior at Decatur, Nurse won the Class 4A triple jump championship and was only the second prep student in Washington state history to soar past 50 feet. He also averaged 14 points on the Decatur basketball team.

Nurse tried competing on the Boise State track and field team during his redshirt freshman year on campus, but two sports proved too much.

“It was just way too tiring,” Nurse said. “I was doing like eight or nine workouts a week and my legs were dead tired.”

So Nurse concentrated on what brought him to Boise — football. Something that might not have happened if it wasn’t for Louwsma. Bronco coaches were watching game film on the big Decatur tight end, defensive lineman when they saw Nurse’s exploits as a wide receiver.

“They offered both of us (full-ride scholarships) and we accepted the deal,” Nurse said.

Louwsma, also in his senior year, has caught two passes for 16 yards this year as a back-up tight end. But the Decatur pair has grown accustomed to playing winning football at Boise State, unlike their days in high school.

“We weren’t the greatest (football) team,” Nurse said. “I think we won five games in my three years.”

In the last two seasons the Broncos are 24-2 and are currently ranked 16th going into the Fort Worth Bowl.

“Wes has been a great person, student and athlete in our program. He is the model of what we are trying to recruit and develop in our program,” Hawkins said.

Before the Broncos recent success, the thing Boise State was known for was the blue Astro-Turf that lies in Bronco Stadium — the only blue turf in the world.

“At first it was kind of strange (playing on the blue turf),” Nurse said. “And then you just get used to it. It kind of messes people up a little bit. We have started wearing all blue uniforms and it’s like we are a blue haze running around.”

Nurse is majoring in marketing and is on track to graduate from Boise State in the spring. He has a goal of working in the sports business in some capacity. But those post-graduation, real-world plans might be put on hold a little bit so Nurse can extend his football career.

According to Tucker, Nurse has the ability to play in the Canadian Football League, the Arena league or possibly even the National Football League.

“It will just come down to the the right team making a decision on him,” Tucker said. “I definitely think he can play at another level than Division I. I think the only thing that might hold him back is his speed.

“But he is a great instinctive player and plays football like it’s supposed to be played.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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