Jimmy Mac was the first out and out star of the Bronco modern era, that is to say, of the college years. Maybe incomparable isn't accurate; you could compare him to several QBs, including Kellen, although Dinwiddie probably is closer. I was going to Boise State when he played but never met him or even saw him on campus. I dropped by the stadium one afternoon (you could do that then- casually walk up to the fence and easily check out what the Broncos were doing, in fact comfortably watch entire games which I did) and the whole team was sitting on the home benches and in the east bleachers. Jimmy Mac was on the (then) green field standing on the 50 yard line; I have no idea what was going on 'cuz right then an assistant yelled that the practice was closed and I split.
One of the interesting things about doing these "archive" posts is you are confronted with how much the game has changed. Get this: Jimmy was called a "passing quarterback", as Boise State was called a "passing team". Pause and reflect on that. Jimmy was the 3rd QB I'd seen at Boise State; the other two, Eric Guthrie and Ron Autele, were very big dudes, Eric a Bobby Douglas type, just a strong, large, athletic man, Ron a powerful, muscular, explosive (I nearly found out how explosive one night at the Bronco Hut-another story) guy who could have been a fullback in the day when that was a true RB position. Jim was long, lean, angular, had surprising tensile strength with limited (albeit occassionally effective) running ability. When my friend Phil Wells one-armed him to the ground for a safety in '74 (maybe the last one against the Broncos in the stadium-Phil also owns the same athletic/academic award from UC Davis as Coach Pete) I was appropriately impressed and told him so later that evening
Jimmy was a local kid, as in Canyon County, Vallivue High if I remember right. Do not recall if he was hgihly recruited but it would have been very unlikely. Jimmy was not a wunderkind like Kellen when it came to adapting to the Bronco offense.His first season he had 5 TDs, 6 interceptions. But once he got full command of the Broncos (he had split time his first year with Autele, the latter more inclined to take off under pressure) he took immense strides. The passing game hasn't simply changed in terms of quantity, but also quality. The passing then was more in the Darryl Lamonica mode, challenging the defense, not so much confusing the secondary as pushing it beyond its limits. Much fewer passes but when teams did it was to stretch the field. The subtle morphing into the West Coast was decades away, as were the rule changes that made it possible. Jimmy launched his passes as much as threw them, but was very accurate, precise, able to instantly recognize and exploit coverages which by our standards were rudimentary. Even then our offensive schemes were complex, and Jimmy had them nailed down. Quiet and cool, he had no fanfare to him, no Kellen-like "6 Guns". He let his play do his talking.
He led us into the Div 11 playoffs twice, dramatically bringing us back against UC Davis in '73. But my best "memory" of Jim is a game I didn't actually see until Youtube replayed the highlights recently. It was also one of his few losses. It was an away game against UNLV in '74; they had an RB named Mike Thomas, who would be the Rookie of the Year in the NFL the next year. Rebels went up by 5 or so TDs before half. But Jimmy came out in the second half and nearly brought us back, magnificently, play after play. Listening to it, I was certain he would. It's been said before about others but never truer than of Jim: he never lost a game-time just ran out. As gallant a man as ever played for this program.
I only know one personal thing about him. The then head cheerleader's girlfriend ended up marrying Jim. It was classic "Archie" Pee-Chee folder stuff (do any of you even know what a Pee Chee is? or ever even seen an "Archie" comic?). A NUGie posted he took a high school class Jim taught and even dated his daughter and never heard a word about his QB days. I'm not surprised. He was great quarterback, but he would never tell you. You had to have been there. I was, and just did.