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In the end there apparently really wasn’t much of a decision at all.
Boise State safety JL Skinner, who has the unique combination of size, athleticism and skill needed to play in the NFL, would have probably been drafted had he skipped his senior season and entered the 2022 NFL Draft.
He could have been working out at Pro Day on Wednesday with Khalil Shakir and others and be just a few weeks away from living out his NFL Dream.
But Skinner will be there only to watch. He’s got practice earlier in the day.
The 6-foot-4 Skinner decided the NFL can wait another year. He returned to Boise State for his senior season, both to try and improve his draft stock and to help the Broncos win a Mountain West championship.
“It was a pretty easy decision for me to come back,” Skinner said Monday in his first interview since deciding to come back to Boise State in December. “That’s what I wanted to do. … I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I wanted to stay here and build more with my teammates and be around the guys and not leave everything we’re trying to build here and accomplish. I didn’t think it was time to leave yet.”
Skinner was named to the All-Mountain West Second Team after leading the Broncos with 92 tackles last season. He also had seven tackles-for-loss and two interceptions while recording at least nine tackles in seven different games.
The decision to come back for Skinner was simple. He likely would have been a fifth, sixth or seventh round draft pick had he entered this year’s draft. But another solid season in 2022 could propel him into the top four rounds in 2023.
“I’m trying to get better everywhere – coverage, tackling, everything,” Skinner said. “I just really want to elevate my game to another level because I feel like I can do that.”
But multiple times Skinner came back to the team goals, and winning a Mountain West championship. He said that was the true reason he came back – and he came off genuine and rather convincing.
“Really it’s not about my personal goals this year,” Skinner said. “I don’t have many. I’m trying to bring back a championship. That’s really on my mind right now. I don’t care about the accolades or personal goals or nothing like that. I just want to bring back a championship and have the game here in Boise like we did my freshman year.”
One thing Skinner knows he needs to work on? Legal hits. Skinner had some bone-crushing, memorable tackles last season including one in which he picked up an Oklahoma State ball carrier and slammed him to the ground. But he also was ejected twice for targeting and had a third targeting call rescinded on video review.
“I haven’t gotten any this spring,” Skinner joked. “I’ve been good. Don’t worry, I’m fixing it.”
Safeties coach Kane Ioane took the blame Monday, saying he needs to do a better job teaching the correct techniques and fundamentals to make sure Skinner is not in that situation moving forward.
Skinner said it’s on him to keep his head out of the tackle and stay in the game.
“I’ve gone back and watched them,” Skinner said. “Getting lower, having better leverage, getting my head out of the way – that’s the main thing. Get my head out of the way, I’m training myself to get my head out of the way. … It just comes with reps. It’s been going great so far.”
Ioane said he’s noticed a motivated and focused Skinner in the three months since he decided to return.
“His purpose and his urgency have been awesome,” Ioane said. “And it’s not just on the field. He’s always going to bring energy to our group and he’s a competitor out there. But his purpose and urgency within the meeting room and helping guys and not just himself as far as taking the notes he needs to take but also helping the younger guys understand the ‘why’ within each position – that part has been awesome.”
Skinner and Tyreque Jones give the Broncos one of the top safety tandems on the West Coast – and maybe in the country. Both are veteran, multi-year starters capable of landing on the All-Mountain West team in 2022.
The San Diego native Skinner laughed and smiled throughout the 10-minute interview with reporters. He’s clearly happy and glad to be back – and enjoying every second of it.
“I’m grateful to be here and really blessed,” Skinner said. “I want to come into the season with gratitude and just try to show my gratitude to Boise and the city of Boise and my teammates. This place has done a lot for me and changed me as a man and as a person and my teammates have been there with me for the ride so I’m just showing gratitude to everybody. I’m blessed to be here in this position and I’m just thankful.
“I’m just really trying to enjoy every moment and not look past anything. I’m really trying to live in the moment right now and be around my teammates and work towards our common goal. … I’m really just thinking about the bigger picture and really bring the championship back to Boise, that’s the main thing on my mind. You guys see all the Mountain West Championships we’ve brought back and I’ve only got one of them so that’s really my main goal right now, I’m trying to bring one more back and leave this place better than when I found it.”
The NFL will eventually come. But there’s a championship in Boise to be won first.