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Campus News

Bulls brighten patients’ day, take in the sights

Old Idaho Penitentiary

Members of the UB cheerleading squad pose outside the historic Old Idaho Penitentiary. Photo: David J. Hill

By DAVID J. HILL

Published December 20, 2013

“A lot of people said good luck to us. When they saw us, they cheered right up. It was a great feeling to see the smiles on their faces.”
Branden Oliver, UB football player

It’s not all potatoes and football for the Bulls in Boise. One UB contingent brightened the day for patients at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in downtown Boise, while two other groups spent some time in prison — at the historic Old Idaho Penitentiary, that is.

A handful of football players, along with head coach Jeff Quinn, cheerleaders and Bulls mascot Victor E. Bull, talked with patients Saint Alphonsus for about an hour. One patient in particular made a big impact on the players.

“The most special moment for me was meeting a 19-year-old kid, his name was Rez. He was in the Air Force and got injured. His parents were there, too. It was nice to talk to him about sports. We were talking to him about the Miami Heat and LeBron James. That really made my day,” said Alex Neutz, a senior wide receiver from Grand Island.

“A lot of people said good luck to us. When they saw us, they cheered right up. It was a great feeling to see the smiles on their faces,” added senior Branden Oliver.

Although it was a short visit for the Bulls, it’s one they’ll carry with them for a long time. “I’ll remember that for the rest of my life,” said junior Jake Stockman. “I got to meet an older man I’d never met before. He walked by and he goes ‘UB Bulls!’ He knew who Branden Oliver was. You can’t forget those experiences. I’ll remember those from this bowl experience for the rest of my life.

“One guy was excited to get home, get on the couch, have a beer and watch some football,” added Stockman. For us to remind him of being home and having a good time with his friends and family, that was great for us. It’s pretty rewarding.”

The more than 100-year-old Old Idaho Penitentiary proved to be a popular draw for the tourists from Buffalo, with a group of players and about a dozen members of the UB cheerleading team taking separate trips to the prison, which housed some of the West’s most desperate criminals. The prison also was used as a filming site for the television show “Ghost Adventures.”

“It looked like a castle. It was oddly beautiful. It was creepy, but in a beautiful sort of way. And with the mountains behind it, it was really cool,” said Michaella Hayden, a junior occupational therapy major on the cheerleading squad.

According to the Idaho State Historical Society, the Old Idaho Penitentiary features 30 historic buildings and special exhibitions. The prison was built in 1870 and its first prisoners arrived two years later. The “Old Pen,” as locals know it, closed in 1973.

“There was one cell that was really cool; I took a picture of it. There was a chair in there and there was a painting of a bird in the back corner — it was actually a really good painting,” Hayden said. “It made it even more creepy because the paint was peeling off the ceiling and off the walls. I was very happy that we went.”

The self-guided tour also provided the cheerleaders with some insight into what people could receive jail time for a century ago. “It was really interesting and cool because of how historic it is. Learning about how the old jails used to work going back to the 1800s, and even seeing what the inmates were in for — stealing cattle and stealing lambs, all the way up to murder,” she said.

“One of the prisoners there actually designed the dining hall. I thought that was cool that they had an inmate design the dining hall. That surprised me,” Hayden added.