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Alexander Mattison has always been mindful of the wear and tear a running back can take, paying extra attention to stay healthy now and in the future.

That played a factor in the Boise State junior’s decision Friday to enter the NFL Draft and forgo his senior season with the Broncos.

“You can only play as long as your body lets you, and at this position, you can’t assume it’ll last forever,” Mattison said in a phone interview Sunday night. “I know the risks when it comes to staying or going, but I wanted to make the best decision for my future, to begin my pro career now.”

Mattison entered the bowl season No. 1 in the nation with 302 rushing attempts and totaled 1,415 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns this season. Of the last nine draft-eligible backs with more than 300 attempts dating to 2014, eight declared early, Mattison included.

With the Broncos losing senior quarterback Brett Rypien, should Mattison have returned, he likely would have seen a similar workload as the focal point of the offense.

“That definitely factored in, it’s one of the smaller details that played a factor,” Mattison said. “I know it might be even more work, and I was so grateful for them relying on me so much, but you can only handle that for so long.”

Mattison had shoulder and ankle surgery following his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively, but did not miss a game in his Boise State career.

Since the First Responder Bowl was canceled Wednesday, what will stand to be Mattison’s last game showed why any potential injuries are not to be taken lightly. Late in the Mountain West championship Dec. 1, he staggered while getting up after a hit to the head. It was a scary sight, and though it was determined he did not have a concussion, it had an effect on Mattison’s decision.

“I kind of felt like that might have been a sign,” Mattison said. “Injuries happen, but I’d be subjecting myself to a lot more possibility of one for another season before even thinking about the NFL again.”

Mattison continued a trend of Boise State’s top stars declaring early for the draft — the Broncos have now had early entrants in six straight years, including their last two backs that had huge junior years in Jay Ajayi (2014) and Jeremy McNichols (2016).

Those two both were taken in the fifth round of the draft. Mattison, who has not signed with an agent, said he heard from some projecting him as a second-rounder in April’s draft, to possibly going undrafted.

The 5-foot-11, 211-pound Mattison has the build of an NFL back and his patient, powerful style has a place at the next level. He said it will be important to show his speed in workouts, hopefully running a 40-yard dash time in the 4.4-second or low-4.5 range. While recuperating from his ankle surgery, he wasn’t able to do the 40 properly during offseason conditioning.

In addition to his on-field workouts, Mattison said he hopes to impress when he meets with NFL teams — the San Bernardino, Calif. native is a two-time Mountain West Scholar-Athlete.

“I couldn’t tell you where I think I’ll go, I know if I prepare the right way, I’ll be fine,” Mattison said. “Stepping into this life, I need to do it with full confidence. I know I have room to grow, and I’m excited to show I’ll work for it.”

NO GAME, BUT RATINGS ARE IN: Only 9 minutes, 52 seconds of the First Responder Bowl was played, but it still drew a respectable 1.445 million viewers, according to Sports Media Watch. It was just ahead of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, which had 1.372 million viewers on Friday.

Last year’s First Responder Bowl, known then as the Heart of Dallas Bowl, drew 2.2 million viewers as Utah played West Virginia. That game, of course, was played for all 60 minutes and thus had a longer timeframe to draw viewers.

EX-BSU QB, OC TO UTAH STATE: Utah State officially hired Mike Sanford as its offensive coordinator Monday. Sanford, 36, was most recently head coach at Western Kentucky for the last two seasons, where he went a combined 9-16.

Sanford was a backup quarterback at Boise State from 2000 to 2004 and was the Broncos’ offensive coordinator in 2014. He spent 2015 and 2016 as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator before being hired at Western Kentucky. Boise State will play at Utah State in 2019.

LONGEST STREAK IN THE NATION: With Virginia Tech’s loss in the Military Bowl, it ended the Hokies’ streak of consecutive winning seasons at 25 as they finished 6-7. That now means Boise State has the longest active streak in the FBS at 21, dating back to 1998, the Broncos’ third season after moving up from the FCS (formerly known as I-AA) ranks.

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