The most successful senior class in modern Idaho football history will graduate next season. The class of 2018 will likely walk out of the Kibbie Dome with close to 20 wins under their belt in four seasons as Idaho heads off to the sunset of the Big Sky Conference.
That accomplishment can’t be understated for a program which won five combined games from 2011-14.
This current group of seniors will grace the Kibbie Dome for the final time, with the opportunity of leaving with 15 wins over the last four years.
This current group contains both Robb Akey signees (Deon Watson, Mason Woods, Calvin White) and Paul Petrino recruits, signing on to his first signing class. Many signed because it was, super ironically now, their only shot at FBS football. They also bought into the vision of turning this thing around, even in the face of conference instability and uncertainty. Kevin Shelton, Austin Rehkow, Buck Cowan, Tueni Lupeamanu.
But this isn’t the only graduating class at Idaho that deserves praise for transforming this once-decrepit program around.
I also want to thank 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
This season simply does not happen without all of those classes and what they contributed to turning this thing around.
This does not happen without class acts like Rob Siavii, Logan Bushnell, Benson Mayowa and Aaron Grymes settling the program after Robb Akey was dismissed. It’s unfair to label this class as a failure when they dealt with an athletic director and head coach who were barely on speaking terms and didn’t have the institutional means to succeed.
Instead they put their heads down, worked their fucking asses off and represented the Vandal name with pride. They played hard under Jason Gesser in the interim.
This doesn’t happen without a guy like Taylor Davis who went into a quarterback battle he barely had a chance to win in Petrino’s first season and dealt with the beating he took when he was forced into action in an offense he wasn’t familiar with and a struggling offensive line.
This doesn’t happen without the leadership of Maxx Forde, who in the face of the coaching change not only stayed in the program but became the leader Paul Petrino needed to make the transition smooth for others who stayed. Who always went out of his way to talk to fans and classmates around town. Who became an ambassador of the program’s turnaround. Who defines what student-athlete is supposed to mean.
This doesn’t happen without Mike Marboe and Jesse Davis, players who loved coach Akey but embraced the coaching change because of what it would mean for their careers, lives and the program.
This doesn’t happen without Dallas Sandberg’s discipline, taking the offensive line into the weight room in the early hours of the morning to transform one of the nation’s worst units into a powerful run blocking unit and one capable of allowing Matt Linehan to blossom into one of the conference’s premier passers.
This doesn’t happen without Quinton Bradley’s emotions and desire to just win one. fucking. home game. They ended up winning three of them last year, including the last one he and Sandberg played in the dome, sending Idaho into this season with the clear expectation, belief and confidence of achieving bowl eligibility.
This doesn’t happen without junior college transfers like Josh McCain, Marc Millan, Callen Hightower or Juan Martinez who went through all the hard times to allow this program to blossom into what it is now, setting examples for the younger players who are now tearing shit up.
I covered this program for too long and have been around way too many players who I wish could be a part of this season to not recognize the sacrifices they have made to allow this program to get to where it is today.
So this Senior Day game against Georgia State, thank a Vandal – any Vandal – who stayed and graduated from this amazing university and represented us on the football field in the post H-Bowl era when it wasn’t the easiest thing to do.