By Brian Murphy
ATLANTA — Boise State will be without starting safety Cedric Febis, defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe and wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn for its season opener against Georgia on Saturday.
The players are all from Amsterdam, but attended high school in Boise.
“The three are being held out of the game due to a review of their NCAA eligibility. The review is not academic or violation of team rules,” Boise State said in a statement released Friday morning.
At a pre-game press conference, Boise State coach Chris Petersen talked about the eligibility problems.
"We're concerned about it. We're looking into it. That's why they're not here. Hopefully we can get it resolved hopefully sooner than later," Petersen said. "We've just got to stay focused on this game. The next guy has to step up and we got to go."
"A few days ago, there was a concern raised and our people started looking into it and we need to go slow on these type of things. Jeremy Ioane will start (at safety) and some other guys, young guys that have been working hard will have to be ready to go and carry the flag."
Asked if it was Boise State's staff or the NCAA that initiated the review, Petersen said: "We're not going to get into all the details right now."
Boise State hired a new compliance director, Josh Cunningham from TCU, earlier this month.
Petersen said the three players were informed yesterday.
"We'll talk about that when we get back. We're just trying to enjoy and focus on this game," Petersen said.
In an email to the Statesman, an NCAA spokeswoman wrote: "You would be best served to contact the school directly as they have all the facts of the situation."
Febis, a senior, attended Bishop Kelly. Tjong-A-Tjoe, a sophomore, went to Boise High. Boldewijn, a sophomore, went to Capital High.
Febis came to the United State for a Boise State summer football camp and decided to stay in the country.
“I decided to stay because I loved the competition, playing against bigger players, faster guys,” Febis said.
He attended Bishop Kelly in 2005-06, helping the Knights to the 4A state championship. Cody Hawkins, the son of then-BSU coach Dan Hawkins, quarterbacked that team. He lived with a host family in Boise and remains close with them.
“They’re like family now. I see them as my mom and dad. When I want to get away from it, I just go over there and hang out. They treat me as one of their own,” Febis said.
Other notes from Petersen:
— He declined to name a starting kicker.
— He said the team has brought up to five true freshmen on the trip, including safety Lee Hightower.
Here is an Idaho Statesman story written by Jesse Zentz in 2008 about the Dutch connection at local high schools:
(Boldewijn changed his name from Hiwat this year, so this story includes his former last name.)
By Jesse Zentz
The Netherlands is a country widely known for its windmills, wooden clogs and world-renowned soccer players. But five Dutch athletes fueled by a love of football are attending Boise high schools this season, hoping to earn a college scholarship. Fellow countryman Cedric Febis did just that in 2005, when he played for Bishop Kelly High and became the 18th player in Boise State head coach Chris Petersen's first recruiting class.
"It's a dream for them to come over here and get the chance to earn a scholarship, " said Dutchman Floris Mendonca, who brought 10 players to the Boise State football camp this summer after he joined Febis at the camp in 2005. "If they stayed in Amsterdam, (college coaches) wouldn't see them. The most important thing for them is to have the chance to go out and fight for a scholarship. You never know what's going to happen."
Four of the players are seniors at Boise High - defensive linemen Donald Alves Fortes and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, running back/defensive lineman Humphrey Koopmans and wide receiver/linebacker Jeffrey Bediako. Geraldo Hiwat is a wide receiver at Capital.
On Friday, Boise visits Rocky Mountain and Capital plays at Caldwell. Both games kick off at 7 p.m.
While Febis remained in Boise in 2005, Mendonca returned to the Netherlands and began coaching football.
"I went home after Cedric and I came here and met these kids, " said
Mendonca, now an assistant coach at Boise. "They wanted a chance to play overseas, over here, so I said, 'Yeah, OK, I will help you.' "
Capital coach Todd Simis and Boise coach Bob Clark said they met Mendonca at the BSU camp and heard rumors that some of the campers wanted to play high school football in Boise.
"The rest is history, " Simis said. "We met them and they were interested in making it happen. Floris was really instrumental in bringing these kids over and helping them through everything."
The players, who are not exchange students, were required to obtain academic (F-1) visas, pay Boise School District tuition, meet eligibility requirements for the Idaho High School Activities Association and find host families before they arrived in mid-August.
"About a month before they even thought they were going to be able to come here, I told them, 'It's probably not going to happen for you guys, ' " Clark said. "I didn't want to get their hopes up because things were moving kind of slow.
"But they all said they still wanted to come to America and go to high school here. From that point on, I was like, these are my kids. That endeared me to them. I'm thinking, 'These guys are awesome.' "
Since arriving, the Boise High contingent's contribution has been nothing short of awesome for a team that hasn't won three or more games since 1997. The Braves have won two of their first three games.
"It's fun to be winning, but I don't think it's all because of us, " Alves Fortes said. "This team is good without us and they have good coaches here."
Alves Fortes (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) leads the Braves with thee sacks and has eight tackles.
Tjong-A-Tjoe (6-3, 260) has 15 tackles, including a team-high seven for loss.
Koopmans (5-10, 265) has 21 carries for 98 yards and three TDs.
Bediako (6-3, 210) has five receptions for 115 yards and one TD, and 14 tackles and a blocked kick.
"They're good football players. They're raw, but they've all got the ability to play college football, " Clark said. "... What they've done is, they've added a spark to the rest of the kids. They're all responding to the competition."
Over at Capital, Hiwat (6-3, 190) has added an explosive element to the Eagles' offense. He has 18 receptions for 201 yards and two TDs through three games.
Simis said he's a bona fide Division I prospect.
"I don't have any doubt he's going to be a guy that's earmarked as a college football player, " Simis said. "Boise State has shown interest, but once we begin contacting schools, that will change."
Hiwat played club football in the Netherlands with Tjong-A-Tjoe, Koopmans and Bediako. Alves Fortes played on another club team.
"I want to play college football and get an education. Football is just my passion, " Hiwat said. "We all did this together, because we are good friends."
In the Netherlands, football is relatively unpopular compared to soccer, which dominates the country's sporting landscape.
Tjong-A-Tjoe played soccer, but his size became a liability.
"I was always the biggest guy on the (soccer) team and the refs always called against me, " Tjong-A-Toe said. "In football, you get beat around at first, but once you get to know the game, it's fun."
Alves Fortes said he comes from a family that is soccer crazy. He's the only one who chose to play football.
"They are pretty excited I did something different, " he said. "They love soccer, but they support me."
All the players said the majority of those who participate in football in the Netherlands don't take it as seriously as their American counterparts.
"It's a lot different over here, " Koopmans said. "It's much harder, much more intensity. All of the guys here play American football like a lifestyle and in Amsterdam it was for fun. We took it seriously and that's why we're here."
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