Though a college standout at Cal and quarterback for the NFL Baltimore Ravens, Kyle Boller still remembers his days at Hart High School in Newhall, California, with uncanny precision. "I can remember almost every single game in high school," said Boller. "It's like seared in my brain."
As California State Player of the Year in 1998, Boller led his team to the Southern Section Division IV title, and was considered the best high school quarterback to emerge from Southern California since John Elway.
We spoke to Kyle to get his thoughts on homecoming, high school football and how being raised in a family of firefighters helped prepare him for the gridiron.
What's your favorite memory of playing high school football?
Winning the CIF championship with all my best friends. That's the one thing I miss most about high school football. You're playing with guys you've known for years and years. To be able to do that and win the CIF championship was awesome.
What do you think it is about high school football that makes it so special to a community?
Where I grew up in Valencia, California, football is real big there and there's there a real rich tradition of winning in the area. It's the thing to do on Friday nights. Everybody from the town is there. It's a good time to get together and compete. We ran a run-and-shoot offense, and I think people really enjoyed seeing the ball thrown around.
Any homecoming memories you can share with us?
Senior year. I think we beat the team we were playing 56-0. Burroughs High School. No, I believe it was Valencia High School. All I remember is we beat them good.
What do you think is the most important quality in a quarterback?
Well, I think it's definitely leadership. When you're standing in the huddle with 10 other guys, they have to have full confidence that you are going to be able to lead them.
What was the biggest thing that Cal head coach Jeff Tedford taught you to help take your game to the next level?
Well, that was one of the big things. Leadership was huge and we had some tough times at Cal. He taught me how to be a leader and how to be confident. Confidence goes a long way in sports.
You come from a family of firefighters. Did that help bring a level of toughness to your game?
Most definitely. If I can raise my kids half as good as my parents raised me I think I'll be all right. I think a lot of the qualities my dad preached to me he learned from other firefighters. It's very similar to football. It's a team-type occupation.
Did football teach you anything on the field that you could apply off the field?
It's taught me tons and tons and tons. Just about perseverance and how to deal with adversity. How to be a team leader and deal with people. It's something that has helped me out big time.
What's one thing about playing quarterback in the NFL that would surprise people if they knew?
It's not as glamorous as people make it seem. It seems like you've got everything under control, but it's not that glamorous. Definitely fun, though. Although I could do without the hits. (Laughs)