BOISE, Idaho — Editor's note: This story originally aired on Nov. 17, 2019.
On Saturday night, the Boise State Broncos played their season home opener against the Utah State Aggies. The Broncos ultimately beat the Aggies 42-13.
This year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, team members, coaches and other essential personnel were the only ones watching the game from inside Albertsons Stadium.
And, of course, the cardboard cutouts that took the place of fans.
The first game of this less-than-normal season brought back memories of a woman named Bernice Thomson, a now 91-year-old woman who's been a Boise State Broncos fan since the 1960s.
Back when fans piled into Albertsons Stadium to watch the Broncos do what they do best, fans and coach Bryan Harsin would participate in The Bronco Walk. It’s something Harsin started when he took the job of head coach almost seven years ago. Harsin led his team through thousands of eager fans at the tailgate two hours before kickoff. It’s a thrill for the fans, the coaches and the players, too.
“We start making that walk through Dechevrieux Field, and people come out and they start getting closer and you can feel the energy and the high fives. Then you make your way through the Broadway side, and people start leaving their tailgate to come over there and high five,” Harsin said. “You feel that energy. You feel that one team, one goal and one city.”
It was during this pregame tradition that Harsin and Thomson met for the first time.
“I started coming out here when Coach Lyle Smith was the junior college coach and I started then, and it was just so much fun to do,” Thomson said. “I love it, I just love it."
Her son Scott says she definitely bleeds blue.
“She's had four kids who have graduated from Boise State, she’s kind of blue and orange all the way through,” Scott Thomson said.
Every home game, Thomson could be found at her family’s traditional tailgate spot in the parking lot on the Broadway side of Albertsons Stadium, where all the action is. The team always passes by during The Bronco Walk. You better believe Coach Harsin noticed this 91-year-old fan.
“Along the walk, there's a lot of stuff going on, a lot of high fives, a lot of 'Go Broncos,' cheers stuff like that,” Harsin said. “Bernice, there she is toward the end of the walk where she's sitting there right upfront. It's just one of those things you just naturally gravitate toward people like that.”
Game after game, Harsin makes a stop to see Thomson, and they have a moment.
“He called her his good luck charm a few weeks ago and that's something she gets a kick out of,” Scott Thomson said. “He always gives her a hug.”
Harsin said stopping to say hello to Thomson has become a Bronco Walk tradition.
“It’s been working, we need to continue it,” Harsin said.
While the Bronco's good-luck-charm can't attend the games in-person this year, Thomson is still the biggest Bronco fan there is. Her family bought 20 cutouts of her to be in the stands to show her love for the team.
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