The first recruit in Boise State’s 2024 class played 8-man football until last season

The Boise State football team landed the first recruit in its 2024 class Thursday.

Hayden Hanks, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound defensive lineman from Montana, announced his verbal commitment Thursday afternoon on Twitter.

He hails from Thompson Falls, Montana — a town with a population of less than 2,000 people. Hanks said Thursday that he’s become something of a local celebrity because he’s the first athlete from Thompson Falls High to earn a scholarship from an FBS program.

“The support from the whole town has been amazing,” he said. “It’s almost like they’re going to throw a parade for me or something.”

Thompson Falls is so small that the school only fielded an eight-man football team until last year. The Blue Hawks made the move to traditional 11-man football in 2022.

The team struggled its way to a 1-8 record one year after winning its first eight-man state title since 1975. Hanks called the season a learning experience and said expectations are high heading into his senior year.

Personally, he’s hoping to make the all-state team for the third year in a row and earn the title of Gatorade State Player of the Year.

“Last year was pretty tough with all the adjustments we had to make,” said Hanks, who hadn’t played 11-man ball since he was in elementary school. “We’re going to be better because of the experience. This will be my fourth year on varsity, and I feel like my knowledge of the game is better than it’s ever been.”

Boise State had success turning a former eight-man player into a star not that long ago. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch came from humble beginnings in Riggins, but he went on to become a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and one of the Dallas Cowboys’ most consistent defenders.

Hanks said he knows all about Vander Esch from his career with the Cowboys. He also has followed Boise State since he was a little kid and said the Broncos are a household name in northwestern Montana.

“Thompson Falls is a quiet, little town, but we love our football,” Hanks said. “Boise State is a big name around here because that’s big-time ball.”

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Hanks is a three-star prospect and the No. 2 recruit in Montana, according to 247Sports. He chose Boise State over scholarship offers from Montana, Montana State, Montana Tech and Idaho. He said deciding to leave home wasn’t easy, but he knows how many doors will open when he joins the Broncos.

“The history the program has is crazy,” Hanks said. “They’ve played in so many big games and put out so many great players. I couldn’t be more excited.”

Hanks made the 10-hour trek from Thompson Falls to Boise for Boise State’s spring game on April 8. He said he was impressed with the atmosphere in Albertsons Stadium and all the facilities, but he knew he was going to be a Bronco when head coach Andy Avalos called him into his office not long after the game.

“He sat me down and told me how much they wanted me and needed me there,” Hanks said. “I was so nervous I was shaking. I couldn’t believe this big-time coach was sitting there saying that to a kid from a small town in Montana.”

Hanks plays offensive and defensive line at Thompson Falls, but he said Thursday that he’ll begin his college career as an interior defensive lineman.

That makes him the latest addition to a unit that is trying to replace Scott Matlock, who the Los Angeles Chargers picked in the sixth round of the NFL Draft in April. Former Iowa State defensive tackle Howard Brown joined Boise State’s 2023 class on Wednesday.

Boise State 2024 recruiting class

DL Hayden Hanks, 6-3, 270, Thompson Falls (Montana) High