6-foot-5 making most out of young football career
Most students wait until they sample college life before deciding what they want to do with the rest of their lives.
Some encouragement from former South Tahoe High football coach Tim Jaureguito showed Cheek his destiny prior to his senior year at STHS.
“Jaureguito asked me to come out and play for him my senior year, and I’m pretty thankful he did,” said Cheek, who will start at left guard for Boise State Broncos when they open their 2001 football season Saturday at South Carolina.
“I’ve played football all my life, but it just didn’t feel right until my last year in high school.”
Since his crash course in football at STHS, the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Cheek performed an NCAA Division I apprenticeship at De Anza Junior College in Cupertino, Calif.
“I was nothing special there. I was All-Coast Conference one year, but that goes to anybody who shows anything,” he said.
He considered several offers after finishing his De Anza stint but decided to walk on at Boise State. He redshirted in 1999 and moved into a backup offensive guard spot last year.
Cheek played in eight games last year, including 29 plays against Eastern Washington and 26 vs. Central Michigan. His biggest contribution to the team was as a snapper on kicks.
The three-sport letter winner at STHS says there’s no secret to why he’s moved into a starter’s role.
“Strength and discipline are the keys,” he said. “I never lifted in high school or JC ball, and we had no discipline at our JC. Coming here, we lift every day. Here, we have to be on time, and we always have to work hard.
“I knew I was good enough or else I wouldn’t have walked on. I’ve been working hard for it; it’s not like it’s a shocker.”
Easing Cheek’s promotion into the starting lineup is that four starting linemen from last year return.
“He’s definitely ready. He’s put in his fair share of time,” said center Scott Huff. “We have 110 percent confidence in Jeff that he can get the job done.”
Cheek can also hold his own with the big boys at the dinner table. There’s actually one contest his fellow linemen refuse to contest with him – eating hot dogs.
“His thing is he eats hot dogs, breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Huff said. “It makes most people sick. He takes the trophy hands down.”
Under new coach Dan Hawkins, the Broncos won’t change their wide-open offense, which often challenges the defense with five-receiver sets.
“There’s a lot of pass blocking. Smash-mouth football normally isn’t our deal,” Cheek said. “When you pass block and look up after three seconds and see wide-open receivers everywhere or hear the crowd going nuts, it’s definitely fun.”
Even more fun this Saturday is going up against coaching legend Lou Holtz.
Like Holtz has for years, the poor-mouthing coach talked up his opponent during the week.
“He said he was scared of us because we’re the most potent offense he’s ever seen,” Cheek said. “We know he’s blowing smoke, but we’re little Boise State in Idaho and he’s saying these things about us.
“Playing in front of 85,000 screaming people is what any kid dreams about. We’re not cocky by any means, but we know we can go over there and play an SEC team and beat them.”
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