Nov. 6, 2002
One day, Kyle Boller may be a true hero.
No, not the type that rescues a football team from almost certain defeat by tossing the winning touchdown pass in the final minute of a close game. One that is more true to life.
After his quarterbacking days are over, Boller could one day change his football uniform for that of a firefighter, following the path laid before him by his great-grandfather, grandfather, father and two uncles.
"Being a firefighter is kind of like being a serious athlete," Boller said. "Just like in football, you never know what's going to happen. You have to be prepared for everything at all times and tackle it as a team. Teamwork is important because you put your life at risk in both occupations."
Boller developed his sense of teamwork from his father, Bob, who instilled the value of discipline into Kyle at a young age.
"My dad has always been a role model for me ever since I was a little kid," said Boller. "Growing up, my dad always told me how competitive it was to get a job with the fire department. So I grew up not doing a lot of things that other teenagers were doing because I didn't want to hurt my chances of becoming a firefighter like my dad."
Even though it may seem that Kyle has broken the Boller firefighter mold, he acknowledged his family legacy as a precursor to his success on the football field. On his first ride-along with his father's Burbank, Calif., regiment, a then-16-year-old Boller experienced first hand the type of uncertainty and cooperation that is involved in making a successful run.
In many ways, Boller hasn't really broken the family mold. In fact, he's a chip off the old block in a certain sense, as his rearing prepared him for the responsibility that comes with being a big-time college quarterback.
"As a kid, he was always home ... he wasn't the typical parent that took off early in the morning and I didn't see until nighttime," Boller said of his father. "He would sometimes be with me for two or three days straight, and he would attend all of my sporting functions. I think that really helped me to become who I am now."
Boller's sense of family, whether it's his biological one or his extended football family, is an issue that hits close to his heart.
"I have a really great relationship with my parents and my sisters," Boller said. "It's something that a lot of people take for granted, but having a strong relationship with my family is something that I value a lot."
Besides his mother and father, his sisters are two of his biggest supporters. Even though he is the middle child, Boller plays the role of older brother very well. He remains protective of both of them, even though his older sister, Candace, is married and lives with her husband in Seal Beach.
"Candace got married last year, which is awesome," said Boller. "But I am still very protective of her. The guy that she married is one of my best buds, so I don't have to worry about her too much."
The youngest Boller, Casey, is a sophomore at San Diego State, studying to become a nurse. While she was a two-sport athlete in high school, she opted out of collegiate athletics in favor of just being a "regular college student," a decision that Kyle thinks was partly due to his influence.
"I remember saying to her, 'hey, if you're not completely into the sport, don't do it because you are pretty much committing your life to it,'" stated an emphatic Boller.
Those ties almost led Boller to a college football career at UCLA, where he could go to school near his hometown. As a youngster, he often envisioned himself playing in the Rose Bowl on Saturday afternoons for the Bruins. But during his recruitment, UCLA received an early commitment from another quarterback, J.P. Losman, and Boller turned his attention north to Berkeley, a school close enough that his parents could still attend every game.
Following a phenomenal senior season at Newall's Hart High School, Boller signed with the Bears in February 1999. Rated the nation's No.1 prep quarterback by some recruiting services and earning California State Player of the Year honors after throwing for 4,838 yards and 59 touchdowns as a senior, Boller brought his immense talents to Strawberry Canyon.
Thrust into a starting role in just his third game as a true freshman, Boller led the Bears to a 24-23 victory over Arizona State, completing 17-of-32 attempts for 213 yards and a pair of scores. However, the ride soon became a rough one, full of bumps and bruises. For three seasons, Boller never quite met the expectations placed upon him as he scrambled behind an line that allowed more than 30 sacks per season and rotated through a pair of offensive coordinators.
Now as a senior, Boller seems to be at the top of his game under the guidance of head coach Jeff Tedford and offensive coordinator George Cortez. Entering this week's contest against UCLA, he has completed 57.2 percent of his passes for 1,699 yards and 18 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He had a five-touchdown game at Washington and last week at USC, threw for two more scores to tie Pat Barnes' all-time Cal mark with 54 career TD tosses. However, Boller insists that it's not the statistics that are key to his happiness, but rather seeing his friends and teammates smiling again and having fun playing the sport.
"It's been hard in the past and we've had some tough seasons," said Boller. "But I know that the team and myself will go out on a high note this year. If it were easy throughout, this season wouldn't have been as satisfying as it's been so far. Anything that's easy is not fun. If I could go out there and play golf just as well as Tiger Woods overnight, it wouldn't be fun and I wouldn't enjoy it. For us going through the seasons that we've had and now being successful and winning, it makes it that much sweeter."
Don't expect to see Boller hitting the links with Tiger Woods anytime in the near future, but he does seem to have his priorities straight.
"I would like to be playing on Sundays at this time next year," he said with a grin. "If that doesn't work out, I can always continue in the Boller tradition of fire fighting."
For the Bears' sake, fans hope Boller is the one starting the fires ... not putting them out.