By Chadd Cripe
© 2014 Idaho Statesman
Here is the second in my series of posts based on interviews conducted with former Boise State football players at last week’s Gridiron Social.
The first installment was about Quintin Mikell and Daryn Colledge.
On Friday, the final installment will focus on Korey Hall and Jamar Taylor.
Today: Jeron Johnson, Austin Pettis, Chase Baker and Nate Potter.
Johnson was one of the outspoken critics of the 2013 Broncos team that finished 8-5 and played porous defense.
Cornerback Bryan Douglas told me this spring that he noticed the criticism from former players. “It made us mad, actually, that we weren’t where we want to be and we’re working twice as hard to get back,” Douglas said. “… It was pretty fair. We all made mistakes. We all gave up plays. We’re trying not to let that happen this year.”
Johnson, a backup safety and special-teamer for the Seattle Seahawks, said his critical posts on Twitter were his way of dealing with watching his alma mater lose. The Broncos were 48-5 during Johnson’s playing seasons, from 2007 to 2010.
“I hope they (saw it),” he said. “It’s on Twitter. I didn’t try to hide it. If I’d had their (phone) numbers personally, I would have called them and told them what’s up. That was my way of venting. Sitting and watching those games, it was hard. … I couldn’t brag around the locker room and talk my mess like I usually do. So hopefully they can give me some bragging rights again this year.”
Johnson was recruited by and played for Marcel Yates, the former defensive backs coach who is now the defensive coordinator.
“I’m glad Yates is back,” he said. “The defense struggled last year. It was quite upsetting being a defensive guy. They’ve got a good vibe going on around here right now. Everyone’s positive around here. They’ve got something to prove. They’ve got something to prove from last season, the five losses. We’ll see. I’m looking forward to the season.”
He expects Yates to instill the attitude that was lacking on defense last year.
“He forces you to bring that toughness,” Johnson said. “I think that’ll help. I think that’s all it was — they just needed physical play. They’re athletic — they have it — they just need somebody to bring it out of them. I think Yates can do that.”
Johnson joked that he was “robbed for 4 ½ years” after seeing the new facilities.
“There was a decade of people and further who helped build this,” he said.
Johnson played in a career-low seven games last season before being placed on injured reserve, missing the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run. He re-signed for this year.
“I just want to get on the field and stay healthy this year,” he said. “That’s my main goal. Hopefully we can do it again with me on the field.”
Pettis, a wide receiver, has played three years with the St. Louis Rams. He made a career-high 38 catches for 399 yards and four touchdowns last season.
— On the facilities: “We were joking with the coaches wondering how they got all of us to commit before they had all this stuff. It’s nice to see the university and especially the football program getting that much more love — top-of-the-line facilities for a top-of-the-line program is something I know we wanted for a long time and they finally got it.”
— On his NFL career: “I’m healthy three years in, so that’s the biggest positive. I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can right now and just worry about the stuff I can control.”
Baker, a defensive tackle, spent the 2012 season on the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad and appeared in five games last season. He spoke to Brian Murphy and Bob Behler for their radio show.
— On his time with the Vikings: “The practice squad, you have to take a step back and learn from those older guys that have been there for a while. Last year, I got a chance to suit up and did the best that I could with the little time that I got.”
— On teasing Adrian Peterson about the 2007 Fiesta Bowl: “I brought it up a couple times. Every time, he looks at me and you can see it — he doesn’t like it. I don’t try to bring it up that much.”
— On Boise State’s new facilities: “These were promised before you left and they’re here after you’re gone — but no, it’s awesome. You love to see a program build this fast.”
Potter, a former left tackle for Boise State and Timberline High graduate, started six games for the Cardinals as a rookie in 2012 and appeared in 13 games last season without a start.
— On the reunion: “It’s fantastic. We look forward to this every year. It’s the best — just to hang out with all these guys, see them all again, relive the glory days.”
— On his role with the Cardinals: “It changes quite a bit. I’ve just got to be ready for everything. That’s the best way to do it — be ready to play every position, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
— On the NFL: “You learn a lot. It’s a business. It’s like going to work every day — it’s a serious thing, which I love. It’s just good to be in that situation. It’s a pretty lucky thing, a pretty cool thing. I’m just enjoying it.”