BOISE — The futures of three star Boise State football players became a bit more clear Wednesday: One is going, one is staying and one hasn’t decided yet.
As expected senior wide receiver Khalil Shakir confirmed Wednesday that Saturday’s home finale against New Mexico will be the last home game of his career. He was eligible to return for an extra year in 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but said he’s “99.9 percent” sure he’s moving on to the NFL.
“Yes,” Shakir said when asked if this would be it. “As much as I don’t like to admit it, yeah, it probably is.”
Junior running back George Holani, who has battled injuries the past two seasons but has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the past two games, confirmed he will return for his senior season.
“Yeah, for sure,” Holani said when asked about coming back next season. “This year I didn’t really start off how I wanted it to start. I think I need to be more consistent and stay healthy.”
Holani said the NFL was “definitely something I’ve thought about, but I feel it’s only right to come back and give back and do what I can and provide for the team.”
The unknown is junior safety JL Skinner, who at 6-foot-4 has the size and athleticism to one day play in the NFL. Whether that is in 2022 or 2023 remains to be seen.
“I don’t really have an answer on that one yet,” Skinner said. “I’m not really approaching it like it’s my last home game, but in the back of my mind it’s like ‘it could be.’
“I’m not approaching it like that, though, because I haven’t really thought about that decision much at all. I’m just trying to put us in the best position to be successful and go out and get us another championship.”
Shakir was long expected to enter the 2022 NFL Draft after he decided a year ago to return to the Broncos for the 2021 season. He has become one of the top wide receivers in Boise State history the past four years, both in terms of production and individual skill.
He has 64 catches for 927 yards and five touchdowns this season.
“I’ve done everything I can,” Shakir said of his college career. “I know who I am as a football player and I’m very confident I put myself in the best situation for the future. I know that.”
Holani burst onto the scene as a true freshman by rushing for 1,014 yards. But he was limited to just three games last year due to a knee injury and has already missed three games this year. He’s rushed for 385 yards and a touchdown on 85 carries, but has 219 of those yards in the past two games.
“It’s exciting to be back out there,” Holani said. “It’s exciting to let it loose. The coaches are able to trust me to go out there and do what I do. One thing I need to continue to work on is my conditioning obviously.”
Asked how close he is to being the healthy, productive George Holani we saw in 2019, he smiled and said, “pretty close honestly. I feel really good out there.”
Holani plans to return in 2022 to try and raise his NFL Draft stock. A healthy, full, productive season next year would certainly do that.
“Of course,” Holani said with a smile.
Skinner leads Boise State with 74 tackles. He’s a physical, hard hitter that has the appearance of an NFL safety. But he’s twice been ejected for targeting due to his hits being dubbed illegal.
After recording at least 10 tackles in three of the first four games, Skinner has only surpassed six tackles in one of the past six games. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing as the Boise State defense as a whole has improved.
Skinner said the NFL has been a goal of his for a long time, but wasn’t ready to commit one way or the other on his future.
“That’s what I’ve dedicated my whole life to,” Skinner said of hopefully one day playing in the NFL. “So to even have that as a possibility would be a big blessing for me. But right now that’s not the biggest thing on my mind. I want to get my degree. That’s the big thing I want to do. I want to make my mom proud and have her watch me go across the stage.
“Whatever way I can do it, if it’s leaving and coming back or doing it online or doing it in person, whatever it is, I just want to make sure my mom can see me walk across the stage.”
Skinner, who said he’s majoring in psychology, said he hasn’t let the pending NFL decision be a distraction to him.
“It really hasn’t been too hard,” Skinner said. “I don’t let that get to me because I know at the end of the day I’m not really here to think about that right now. I’m here to bring another championship to Boise.”
Skinner admitted he’ll take an extra second at some point Saturday night to soak in what could be his final home game on The Blue, but said, “I don’t have any of that in my mind right now. It will be a decision for later. Right now I’m not treating it as my last home game. I’m treating it for the seniors, it’s their last home game, and I want them to go out with a bang. That’s the big thing for me.”
Several other players will soon have decisions to make, mostly seniors who need to decide whether or not to use the extra COVID-19 season and come back next year. Boise State has said all of those decisions won’t come until after the season.
Fans are encouraged to arrive early Saturday. Senior Night festivities, including honoring the 24 seniors, will begin around 6:30 p.m.