By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
Boise State senior fullback Dan Paul’s groin injury last season took an emotional toll as much as a physical one.
Paul was injured stretching for practice five days before the season opener against Georgia. For a few weeks, he thought he might return quickly. Eventually, he realized he would have to redshirt — and need surgery.
He returned to practice Aug. 4 when the Broncos opened fall camp — nearly a year later.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Paul said Monday. “I’ve been in the dumps the past year, just not being able to run, workout or do much involved with the team. So it just feels great to be back and part of something.”
Paul tore a tendon from his pelvis while doing a high-knee stretch. He felt a pop but tried to finish practice. The next day, he struggled to walk.
It took several weeks before the injury was diagnosed. He had surgery when the tear didn’t heal on its own.
“It was super aggravating, seeing all my buddies who I came in with finishing up their senior day,” Paul said. “It was kind of heartbreaking at times, but I’m pretty fortunate to have that extra year to come back and finish my senior year off right.”
Paul joined the Broncos in January 2008 as a grayshirt linebacker. He played special teams as a true freshman and switched to fullback, where he became the starter late in the 2009 season because of Richie Brockel’s injury. He caught three touchdown passes against Nevada in 2009 and was the primary fullback in 2010.
The 6-foot-1, 262-pounder brings a bruising presence to the two-back run game, can play some tight end and energizes the entire unit with his personality.
“I’m really hopeful that Dan Paul can come back fully healthy,” coach Chris Petersen said, “because he’s a really good player when he’s healthy. I just hope for his sake — with all the things he’s been through, how long he’s been grinding at this — that he can have a good senior year.”
Petersen said Paul is fully cleared, but he considers him “play by play” because of the injury.
Paul wasn’t cleared until the first day of fall camp and as recently as a month ago wasn’t sure he’d be practicing.
“I came into camp not really knowing how I was going to react to it, not knowing how my body was going to handle it,” he said. “This is leaps and bounds ahead of where I thought I was going to be. It’s awesome. It feels great.”
He has had a few moments of glory — like the game against Nevada — but says what he enjoys most is providing that physical edge to the run game. Coaches used defensive players and tight ends to replace him.
“Whatever I can do for this offense is what I want to do,” Paul said. “What I most enjoy is getting those big blocks and watching D.J. (Harper) break for the end zone, or Doug Martin in the past. That’s where I get the joy in football.”
The Broncos practiced once Monday, making their Dona Larsen Park debut. The new high school football, Boise State track and field and Boise State softball facility will be dedicated Wednesday.
The practice featured some terrific battles between the wide receivers and defensive backs. Two highlights: cornerback Bryan Douglas, wide receiver Matt Miller and safety Hazen Moss went up for one ball at the goal line. Douglas came down with it for an interception. On another play, wide receiver Chris Potter made a diving catch along the sideline on a ball thrown just out of the defender’s reach.
In Tuesday’s newspaper, learn about a Boise State football tradition — the Bronco Olympics. It’s a series of fun non-football competitions the team engages in every year to build unity and develop competitiveness.
Camper of the day update (chosen by coach Chris Petersen for Broncosports.com):
Day 1: N Corey Bell. “Corey had a great summer and came into camp in good shape,” Petersen said. “Mentally, he is really on top of things right now.”
Day 2: TE Holden Huff. “Holden is making plays for us out there, and we like playmakers,” Petersen said.
Day 3: DL Darren Koontz. “Darren had a really nice day,” Petersen said. “He was playing physical and much faster, and he was nice and disruptive today.”
Day 4: LT Faraji Wright. “Faraji showed up to this camp ready to compete,” Petersen said. “He has been playing at a high level from day one, and he has been extremely focused.”
Day 5: LB Tommy Smith. “Tommy has been extremely focused thus far in camp,” Petersen said. “He has been working extremely hard and is playing very physical football right now.”
Day 6: RB D.J. Harper. “D.J. is running hard and making sharp cuts,” Petersen said. “He has been extremely precise in what he’s doing out here.”
Day 7: No practice.
Day 8: CB Deon’tae Florence. “Deon’tae had a really good practice,” Petersen said. “He made some big plays, and hauled in a couple of interceptions.”
Day 9: No practice.
Day 10: LB J.C. Percy. “J.C. is doing a great job inside,” Petersen said. “He knows this defense inside and out, and he plays as hard as anyone we have on the roster.”