There are probably bruises that are still healing from hits Tanner Vallejo unleashed during his time as a Nevada Union linebacker.
Now, the backer with a relentless drive and nose for the football is leaving his mark on opposing players in the Mountain West Conference.
As a freshman at Boise State, Vallejo made his presence known with jarring hits and stellar play, eventually earning a starting spot on the Bronco defense.
As Vallejo prepares for his sophomore season, he’s bigger, stronger and a year wiser, and has one goal in mind — help the Broncos win the Mountain West Championship.
“Our expectations stay the same,” Vallejo said. “We want to win the Mountain West and win a bowl game. That’s our plan and anything else is a failure.”
Vallejo, who graduated from Nevada Union in 2013 as the all-time leading tackler, is back on the blue turf at Boise State, and said he’s ready to be an elite player at the collegiate level.
“In my freshman year I was like a freshman, and I didn’t watch as much film as I should have,” he said. “But now, I’ve started to grow up. I’m watching film all the time. You need to know what the other team is going to do before they do. I live in the film room now. There and the weight room.”
The 6-foot, 1-inch Vallejo said he weighed around 210 pounds as a freshman and was playing middle linebacker. Vallejo said he is now up to 230 pounds.
“The O-lineman are so much bigger, and so you would think they are slower, but they’re not,” Vallejo said. “They’re faster and so much stronger.”
In Vallejo’s freshman campaign he appeared in 11 games, starting six of those. He tallied a total of 51 tackles (28 solo), five of which were for a loss. Vallejo’s best game came against Colorado State when he made 11 tackles (nine solo).
The Broncos finished 8-5 overall and 6-2 in the Mountain West last year, and concluded the season with a 38-23 loss to Oregon State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
While playing for the Miners, Vallejo was a three-year varsity starter at linebacker (2010-2012), amassed 419 total tackles, was named the Sierra Foothill League Defensive MVP twice and was named to the All-Sac-Joaquin Section first team twice.
Vallejo was heavily recruited out of high school by several Division I schools, but chose Boise State after he was won over by then head coach Chris Peterson on a visit to the school.
Peterson has since left for the head job at Washington, and the Broncos hired new head coach Bryan Harsin.
“Coach P had to do what he had to do for business reasons,” Vallejo said. “At this level it’s a business and I have no hard feelings.”
Vallejo said the arrival of Harsin has breathed some new life into the program.
“I like the new coach a lot,” he said. “He’s a lot different. I’ve never worked so hard in the offseason in my life.”
Vallejo and the Broncos returned to work last Friday and open the season Aug. 28 when they face Ole Miss in a nationally televised game in the Georgia Dome.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.