Playing eight-man football in Idaho's smallest high school classification, Vander Esch was the team MVP as the starting quarterback and linebacker, recording 66 total touchdowns. He led Salmon River to back-to-back state titles in football and basketball his junior and senior seasons, but not many college recruiters make the trip to Riggins, Idaho for a player with less than a dozen students in his graduating class.
Vander Esch walked on at Boise State, where he redshirted, developed his body and waited his turn. In his fourth year in the program, he earned a starting linebacker job and finished top-five in the FBS with 141 tackles. He added four forced fumbles and three interceptions to become the first BSU player named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
A right-place, right-time defender, Vander Esch is quick to diagnose, find the developing run lane and plant the running back in the hole. He moves extremely well for a player his size, scraping down the line of scrimmage and using his lateral quickness to mirror running backs across the formation. While tough vs. the run, he is even better in pass coverage, dropping into zones with a knack for finding the passing lane.
Aside from all the physical characteristics, Vander Esch pushes himself in the weight room - he has gained 40-plus pounds since high school - and film room. For a player with only one season of starting experience in college, his blossoming football IQ is impressive, showing noticeable improvement with every game in 2017. An ascending player, Vander Esch has yet to hit his ceiling and should continue to improve with NFL coaching.
--Field Level Media