The star offensive lineman hails from North Pole, Alaska, where he lived on Santa Claus Lane near candy cane-striped light posts and fire hydrants. The quarterback is the son of a potato farmer from Oregon who spent some of his childhood running the piler that loaded trucks.
With a diverse collection of characters from unique and humble backgrounds, the Boise State Broncos are as blue-collar as the color of their distinctive football field would suggest. An unlikely powerhouse program that has been Division I-A since 1996, Boise State opens this season with grand aspirations.
"We openly talk about winning the national championship," said Daryn Colledge, the star lineman from Alaska.
Each preseason, players gather to write down a series of goals and plan steps to attain them. Win the Western Athletic Conference title: They've done it three straight years. Go undefeated: They finished the 2004 regular season 11-0.
"When we started that five years ago," Colledge explained, "some of the things on that list you could never believe could ever be possible. Believe it or not, things started to fall off the list and became things that were just expected."
Boise State competed in Utah's shadow much of last season, receiving some national fanfare but far less than the Utes, who became the first team from one of the five non-Bowl Championship Series conferences to earn a spot in one of the sport's top four bowl games. Utah defeated Pittsburgh, 35-7, in the Fiesta Bowl, while Boise State lost to Louisville, 44-40, in the Liberty Bowl.
The Broncos needed to finish among the top six in the BCS standings to automatically receive a berth. They hurt their cause by needing two overtimes to beat struggling San Jose State, 56-49, on Nov. 13 in a game that began at 9 a.m. locally.
The Broncos finished the season having won 25 straight home games and 26 consecutive WAC games, leaving some believing they were capable of competing at a championship level. Said Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino, "They could have played in the BCS."
And they could be better this season. Most of the offense is back, including senior left tackle Colledge, who has not allowed a sack since his freshman year, and quarterback Jared Zabransky, the preseason conference offensive player of the year.
Over the past five years, no offense has scored more points. Nicknamed "Pete's Poison," after coordinator Chris Peterson, the offense has averaged 43.3 points this decade. Characterized by Coach Dan Hawkins as a "menagerie of things with a ton of personnel groups," it varies from a West Coast offense in that it stretches the field more with deep passes.
Hawkins, 44-7 in four years since being promoted after predecessor Dirk Koetter left for Arizona State, won't address the team's sizeable potential, much less get caught up in it.
"When you have those questions" about potential, Hawkins said, "or last year when they asked, 'Did it surprise you that your team did so well?' No, it didn't surprise me. We kind of reload every year -- and we try not to assume anything."
The Broncos open with difficult road games at nationally ranked Georgia and at Oregon State before hosting another non-BCS upstart, Bowling Green. The early portion of the schedule was completed years ago, Hawkins said, and wasn't a sudden attempt to upgrade the nonconference slate after failing to make the BCS.
"Don't be surprised if they beat Georgia," Fresno State Coach Pat Hill said. "They are good enough to do it."
Hawkins, when asked what he tells his players about finishing the regular season undefeated and being excluded from the BCS, said: "Life is not fair. And to approach it as [fair], I don't think probably is educationally sound. We talk about controlling what we can control."
Colledge echoed the sentiment, saying: "Everyone has to step back and look at what Utah did. The fact is that we didn't play all of our games as tough as we could. If we would have beaten everybody by 100 points, then I think they would have been like, 'Okay, maybe we'll let them play.' It's on us to have a better season, go undefeated and hopefully get that BCS slot."