When the Big Sky Conference football schedule was released in the offseason, people were livid.
How could Cal Poly — in its first year in the Big Sky and the senior season of its star quarterback — not be making a trip to Portland State?
Andre Broadous took the brunt of the Nancy Grace-level outrage from friends and family.
Didn’t the Big Sky schedule makers know the Portland native was the Oregon state player of the year in 2007, a class 6A co-offensive MVP, 6A quarterback of the year, a two-time city champ and a loser of just four prep games in a three-year varsity career as the starter at Grant High?
Deserving of a homecoming in the minds of many, the best the Mustangs quarterback will get is a visit from his hometown team on Cal Poly’s homecoming at Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Saturday.
But the fifth-year senior really has seen his own Portlandia created in San Luis Obispo, all the while growing into the inspirational leader the Mustangs ventured beyond their borders to secure in the first place.
Broadous was in a strange situation when the coaching staff that recruited him with promises to become a four-year starter at Cal Poly left for Army after his redshirt freshman season in 2008.
Brought in to replace graduating senior Jonathan Dally, Broadous knew everything he was told by the old regime was immediately stricken from the record, creating a lot of uncertainty.
The circumstances only got stranger when former Army offensive coordinator Tim Walsh was named as Rich Ellerson’s replacement.
Broadous had grown up watching Walsh during his 14-year tenure as the head coach at Portland State. Broadous even had fond memories of the coach coming to Grant’s campus, telling him why he should join the Vikings program.
Then Walsh brought on running backs coach Aristotle Thompson, a legend on the Portland football scene after finishing his prep career as the all-time leading rusher at private-school powerhouse Jesuit.
Thompson, related to Broadous through marriage, had also been an assistant coach during Broadous’ sophomore and junior seasons at Grant after a standout collegiate career at Boise State. They grew up in the same area of Northeast Portland, the more urban center of a city known more for its hipsters and liberal tastes.
Walsh and Thompson are still two popular figures in the town that got to know Broadous as a three-sport athlete with Pac-12 talent.
“It was crazy to me,” Broadous said. “Out of all the coaches in the world, the exact coaches from Portland and then A.T., a guy who coached me in high school? It was just a crazy coincidence. It was shocking.”
POLY’S INVESTMENT IN BROADOUS
Broadous nearly went to Portland State. He considered himself a fan of a program that played its home games just 15 minutes from his house. And he’s always had pride for his city.
When Broadous was at Grant, the Vikings and new head coach Jerry Glanville were offering him a chance to try out at quarterback, something he wasn’t being afforded by another in-state suitor.
Oregon State wanted the all-state safety to play defense, an impressive offer from a nationally recognized program at the highest collegiate level.
Broadous visited both campuses, but in the end chose Cal Poly when then-offensive coordinator Ian Shields came to Oregon to tell Broadous he would be the only player on the Mustangs’ roster the program would spend out-of-state tuition money on.
More than just promises, Cal Poly was offering a financial investment it didn’t often hand out in addition to plans to play him under center.
And maybe it was a special attitude, one borne from his hometown upbringing, that had him eager to prove he could play quarterback in college, even though some deemed him too short to see the field.
As Thompson knows, it’s hard to make a name for yourself outside of traditional football hotbeds.
“Coming from Portland, you always want to make your name known,” Thompson said. “You always want to be considered one of the top guys. When you come from Oregon, people are like, ‘You’re from Oregon. That doesn’t count.'
“Coming from that area, you always have a chip on your shoulder. You always want to compete, and you have that drive.”
MASTERING THE OFFENSE
In his second full season as the Cal Poly starter, Broadous has the Mustangs off to one of their best starts in program history.
At 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big Sky, Cal Poly has victories over an FBS program and rival UC Davis — both firsts under fourth-year head coach Tim Walsh.
Broadous hasn’t been the statistical standout he was in last season’s 6-4 year, where the 6-foot, 210-pound option quarterback scored a program-record 18 rushing touchdowns and ranked fourth in the FCS in scoring.
His rushing totals are down. His passing totals are down. But never has Broadous been credited more for the team’s success.
“He understands that he’s going to take what they give you,” Walsh said. “Does he wish he had 700 yards rushing right now? Does he wish he had 1,000 yards passing right now? I’m sure he does, but he will do whatever it takes for us to be efficient and win the game.
“He’s not going to always have the numbers but if they allow him to run, watch out. If they allow him to throw, watch out. And if they allow him to make the read he’s supposed to make, he does not make a lot of mistakes; therefore, we’re really efficient.”
Broadous has had big plays. He ran 56 yards for a touchdown in the season opener against San Diego. He had a 45-yard touchdown pass to Willie Tucker against Northern Colorado last weekend.
He’s passed for nine touchdowns, ran for four more and thrown only one interception this season while completing 59.2 percent of his passes and rushing for 40 yards per game.
His distribution of the ball has the Mustangs averaging 309.8 rushing yards per game, the third-highest team rushing total in the FCS, and their 38.2 points per game ranks 10th in the country.
Even opposing coaches are approaching Broadous after games to tell him how amazed they are with his mastery of the Cal Poly offense, something that never happened before this season.
And though he hasn’t passed enough to qualify for the efficiency rankings, Broadous’ passer rating of 169.7 would rank fourth in the FCS if he could get his 11.8 attempts per game up to the required minimum of 15.
That is, if it mattered to him.
“Statistics, I don’t really care,” Broadous said. “We’re 6-0, which a lot of people didn’t expect. As long as my teammates are happy and we keep winning, I can’t complain.”
TEAMMATES LOVE HIM
Each week a different Cal Poly player or coach has said how much the team loves playing for Broadous.
Mustangs players say they’d do anything for him. Coaches recognize the fact and marvel at how a generally mild-mannered player can inspire such emotion.
It all goes back to Portland and Thompson’s quote on the necessity of being a supreme competitor and Walsh’s comment on Broadous doing what it takes.
Whatever he’s doing, Broadous wants to be the best and he doesn’t care how it gets done.
Teammates see that in Broadous, a player whose toughness was forged in a high school career where he didn’t own a mouthguard.
Even if he isn’t leading cheers in the fieldhouse before the games, leading rusher Deonte Williams listens when Broadous talks. Fullback Akaninyene Umoh makes a weekly commitment to follow his every order. And when slotback Cole Stanford rumbles into the defensive backfield to lay a block on a corner or safety, he does it knowing it might just create a crease for Broadous to make a game-changing play.
“It’s humbling,” Broadous said. “When guys tell you stuff like that, it just shows you have their respect.”
“My main thing is I go out there and play with a passion that’s contagious. A lot of my teammates have picked up on that, and we’re out here playing with a passion both offensively and defensively.”