BOISE — Former Boise State linebacker Will Heffner said his decision to transfer to CSU-Pueblo for his final season was due in large part to only receiving a scholarship for one season with the Broncos.
Heffner arrived at Boise State as a walk-on, but was given a one-year scholarship prior to his redshirt sophomore season in 2017. The scholarship agreement he signed was only for the 2017-2018 school year.
Despite feeling he had done enough to remain on scholarship, he was informed prior to the 2018 season that his scholarship would not be renewed. The former Bishop Kelly grad then played in every game last fall before deciding after the season that he wanted to finish his career elsewhere.
“In the back of my mind the whole year I was like, ‘dang, I earned that scholarship and then I get it pulled for no reason,’” Heffner said.
“I was on the All-Mountain West Academic Team, I was doing what I was supposed to do and then they take it away. That was weighing on me and a lot of my family members said they’d support me if I went a different direction for my last year.”
Boise State challenges the word ‘pulled’ because the scholarship agreement Heffner signed clearly stated it was only for one year. Coach Bryan Harsin told the Idaho Press all parties involved knew he would only be put on scholarship for one season.
“I’m sorry he feels that way but in my opinion we were very specific and those scholarship papers say exactly what the time frame is,” Harsin said. “There’s zero gray area on what the time frame of the scholarship is. Three people sign it and not only is it on paper but it’s also mentioned very specifically on exactly what it’s going to be.
“We really liked Will. He was good for us, he played really hard for us, and he decided not to play here anymore and that’s what it came down to. I hope he does well there.”
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker appeared in 19 games the past three seasons for the Broncos and made two starts. He played mostly on special teams but saw some action at linebacker in goal line and short yardage situations. He had seven tackles, including one tackle for loss.
Heffner’s dad Terry played at Boise State from 1987-1990 and his grandpa Ron Heffner played for coach Lyle Smith. His uncle Chuck Pagano, now the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, coached linebackers at Boise State for two seasons in 1987 and 1988.
Heffner said he had many fond memories from his time at Boise State, including when he was told he’d be put on scholarship for the 2017 season.
“It was the most exciting part of my college career probably,” Heffner said. “I was a walk-on and passed up three FCS offers to walk on and follow in my dad’s footsteps at Boise State and to walk on and earn that scholarship was the best feeling in the world because I had worked my butt off for two years.”
Heffner said he understood that the scholarship terms were for one season when he signed them but was under the impression that he’d have an opportunity to keep it moving forward. He also said he was disappointed to find out it wouldn’t be renewed when his scholarship check didn’t come last August. He then asked about it, and Harsin told him in a meeting a few days later the scholarship was needed for someone else, Heffner said.
Boise State maintains the deal was only because they had an extra scholarship for that season, and that the one-year arrangement was clear.
“We have two choices, we can give one (to a walk-on) or just let it sit there and not let some young man take the benefit of our university being able to pay for his school,” Harsin said. “Being a former walk-on I’m pretty sensitive to that and you try to take care of guys and not let one just sit in the bank when someone can be using it for that year.
“I love Will, I loved his effort and everything he gave us and I’m sad that he feels that way.”
Heffner said he “probably would still be at Boise State finishing my career there” had the situation not unfolded the way it did, but said he welcomed the chance to get more playing time at CSU-Pueblo for his final season.
While he admitted disappointment in how things played out, Heffner said the family will continue to pull for the Broncos. He’ll graduate from Boise State in May.
“Not a lot of people know that it happened and I wanted it to be known (why he left),” Heffner said. “But I’m a Bronco and I’ll always be a Bronco. I love Boise State.”
Heffner is one of three linebackers with eligibility left to leave the program since last year ended. Desmond Williams elected to transfer and Tyson Maeva was dismissed from the team.