BOISE — Garrett Collingham chuckled when asked to estimate what percentage his injured shoulder was at by the end of last season.
“Shoot, none,” he said. “It felt like it. It was definitely super loose.”
Collingham wasn’t about to take himself out of the lineup now that he had finally found a role and a spot on the field. Not even with a torn labrum that required surgery after the season.
So he toughed it out, missing just one game after injuring the shoulder against Fresno State. He played through the injury and scored a key touchdown against Utah State in the regular-season finale, and found a way to be out there for the Mountain West title game against Fresno State.
“I think that had a huge part to do with it, just wanting to be out there and contribute any way I could,” Collingham said. “We were super thin at the end of the year like most teams are, but I wanted to be out there anyway I could.
“The practices, to be honest, didn’t feel very good on the shoulder, but knowing I was going to be part of the offense and get in there in the games definitely played a factor (in playing through the pain).”
Asked if the shoulder would ever pop out of place, Collingham again smiled.
“Yeah, every practice pretty much,” Collingham said.
It took four years and five positions for Collingham to find a home at tight end, so willing himself to stay on the field shouldn’t be a major surprise. He saw time at punter, quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker before making the switch to tight end prior to his redshirt junior season in 2018.
And as he got more comfortable with the position, his playing time and production started to increase. He had five catches for 58 yards but scored his first two career touchdowns last season, one as a rusher and one as a receiver.
The walk-on from Mountain View High School was rewarded with a scholarship in advance of his final season this fall.
“I love Garrett Collingham,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “He has to go out and play and prove it and all that, but as far as somebody that has changed his body and worked hard, is low maintenance and high output, that guy is every one of those things.”
Finally healthy and with a year of experience at tight end under his belt, Collingham could be in store for a much bigger role in 2019.
“It feels great to actually just be able to know exactly what I’m doing,” Collingham said. “There’s multiple calls on each play, so to know every call just boosts my confidence. There’s so many things tight ends do with the shifts, motions, routes, blocking, making calls at the line. Just getting in the film room and knowing what’s going on, that’s the greatest step I took this offseason.”
It took a while but Collingham finally has a spot he can call home as a tight end.
“I wish I would have found it sooner,” Collingham said of tight end. “But it’s been fun. I definitely feel at home and comfortable.”
BATES HOPING TO INCREASE PRODUCTION
Tight end John Bates is the top returning tight end for the Broncos with 10 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown last season. At 6-foot-6 he’s got the size and skill to be a matchup problem for opposing defenses, but has yet to reach his full potential.
“He didn’t have a whole bunch of catches but he’s certainly capable of that,” tight ends coach Kent Riddle said. “There’s one ball and there were a lot of guys capable of catching it last year. Even in the last game he had a big explosive play for us. He’s really effective as a blocker, he’s big and strong and can move. I expect him to be one of the best around this year.”
Bates has 13 catches the past two seasons but is one of the clear leaders of the tight end group heading into 2019. The Broncos have three returning tight ends with playing experience in Bates, Collingham and Matt Pistone, but are also counting on redshirt freshmen Tyneil Hopper and Cole Ramseyer of Coeur d’Alene to contribute.
“Our group has a chip on our shoulder and we want to go out there and be productive,” Bates said. “All of us have made big leaps in our games. … Whatever our coaches tell us to do we want to do it and do it the best we can.”
YOUNGSTERS WILL GET A SHOT
Harsin and Riddle both said they expect Hopper and Ramseyer to get opportunities to play after redshirting last season.
Hopper in particular was a highly touted prospect when he signed with the Broncos out of high school. The Georgia native originally had offers from Alabama, Louisville and several other big-time programs before picking Boise State.
“Those guys should play for us,” Harsin said. “if they don’t then they haven’t put in the work, because they are more than capable. Tyneil and Cole need to step up and be players for us. They need to have roles that are significant.”
Boise State lost Chase Blakley, another Coeur d’Alene product, from last year’s roster. The tight end led the group with 17 catches.