BOISE, Idaho -- No matter what Byron Hout does on the field during the rest of his career at
Getting clocked in the jaw on national television in the seconds after a stirring victory, and setting off a melee that cost an expected star player most of his final college season, is a tough image to erase.
"I don't think he changed significantly, but I certainly think it had an affect on him without question," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "That's a hard thing for anyone to have to go through and really be with him the rest of his career. It was just so unfortunate that whole thing shook down like that."
Rewind nearly 12 months ago to a muggy Thursday night on Boise's famous blue turf. In the ticks after Boise State's 19-8 victory over Oregon, Hout was celebrating on the field when he happened upon Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount, limited to (minus)-5 yards on eight carries on a night that was supposed to be the kickoff to his campaign as one of the top running backs in the country.
Hout decided to repeat the words Blount had told a reporter during the summer about how the Ducks owed the Broncos for a victory a year earlier in Eugene.
Hout's words: "how about that [expletive]--whooping?"
Before anyone could blink -- or Petersen could pull Hout away -- Blount's right fist connected with Hout's jaw, changing both of their futures.
"It's tough. It's always a shadow. It's always going to be a shadow in my career, a dark point," Hout told Boise-area media last Friday in his only availability during the Broncos' fall camp. "I just try and learn from it. Everything happens for a reason and that happened to teach me and hopefully a lot of other players you can't let your emotions get out of control."
Instantly Hout, then a reserve defensive end and now a middle linebacker, became a lightning rod for criticism for poor sportsmanship in the wake of arguably the biggest home-field victory in the program's history. Everywhere he went Hout was hounded by the question of what he said, why he said it and the fallout thereafter.
Petersen chose not to suspend Hout, instead issuing an internal punishment. Meanwhile, Blount was very publicly suspended by Oregon coach Chip Kelly, then reinstated late in the year as the Ducks won the Pac-10 title and played in the Rose Bowl.
"When you meet somebody new, they're 'Oh, you're that guy,"' Hout said. "I always have to retell the story over and over again, and say the same thing over and over again."
Petersen said any impact the incident had on Hout wasn't visible on the field, but the coach could tell it bothered him once the pads were put away.
"Byron was giving great effort and seemed like the same old Byron," Petersen said. "(But) I know that as a person it affected him."
Hout finished the season with 27 tackles and two sacks. He played in the Broncos' Fiesta Bowl victory over TCU, but in the offseason was given his second position switch since arriving in Boise. Hout started as a linebacker, then was told to pack on weight and was moved to defensive end. Now with some depth along the defensive front, Hout dropped 20 pounds and returned to middle linebacker, where he's competing for playing time.
But no matter how many things Hout does on the field, he already realizes the run-in with Blount is something he'll be explaining to his kids years from now.
"We all kind of walk such a fine line in competing on the football field. There has got to be some nastiness you bring to the table. That's a fine line, you want to bring that but in a good way, in a sportsmanship way," Petersen said. "And when it's such an emotional game, it's very easy to cross that line with some words being said."