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Original Issue



Big Country

BEFORE HEADING to Dallas, where the Cowboys made him the 19th pick in the NFL draft, Leighton Vander Esch, 22, carved out a day to show off his hometown. The latest installment of SI's 24 Hours series is set in Riggins, Idaho (pop. 406), a one-street town along the Salmon River where Vander Esch, a linebacker from Boise State, started playing eight-man football in sixth grade. He guides viewers through mountain life—skeet shooting, hunting and dog breeding—and introduces them to his mother, Sandy; his three sisters, all of whom played college basketball; and his father, Darwin, who built two houses from scratch. The Vander Esch compound is stuffed with taxidermy: deer, salmon, mountain lions. But the most fearsome beast is the six-wheeler tour bus in the driveway. Darwin souped up the vehicle with a stove, tweaked the seating, detailed the rig in the blue-and-orange of Boise State, and drove it to away games last fall. He plans to repaint it in navy, silver and white this summer.


Shaquille O'Neal and SI special contributor Jack McCallum relive the big man's 1992--93 rookie season with the Magic, focusing on an early visit to New York to play the Knicks. "I was terrified," Shaq admits to McCallum. "Let's get this over with." But eventually O'Neal dunked on Patrick Ewing, giving Shaq a little—O.K., more than a little—swagger. Even if you know what happened next, it's more fun to let Shaq explain it.


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