BOISE, Idaho — WAC football coaches showed their respect for Boise State senior defensive end Ryan Winterswyk all season by double-teaming him.

They showed it again by naming him to the All-WAC first team despite unimpressive stats, which were a product of that attention and a preseason knee injury that took away some of his explosiveness the first two months.

Winterswyk, who will play his final college game Wednesday in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas against Utah, made the All-WAC first team three straight years. He's the first Bronco to do that since linebacker Korey Hall (2004-06).

"It means a lot to me," Winterswyk said. "I'm pretty prideful in that. I credit also the defense and the guys I play around on the D-line. You bring a guy like Korey Hall into the picture, too that's something to be pretty happy about because that guy was a baller."

Winterswyk is fifth on the team with 42 tackles and fifth with seven tackles for loss. He has 2.5 sacks, a career low. He also has an interception.

For his career, Winterswyk ranks fourth in school history with 44.5 tackles for loss and fifth with 21.5 sacks. He had a career-high nine sacks last year.

He has the most sacks and tackles for loss of any Boise State player since the school moved into the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1996.

"He's just an unassuming guy but when he puts the pads on he's just relentless," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "I know his teammates have tremendous respect for him. The way he approaches everything on and off the field is always the way you want it done."

First-year junior defensive end Tyrone Crawford, who backed up Winterswyk this season and likely will replace him next year, credits Winterswyk with much of his success this season. Crawford leads the team with 13 tackles for loss.

"He's a beast," Crawford said. "I'm so happy I got to play with him a year. Without him this year, I feel like I wouldn't be the player I am. I wouldn't know the plays the way I do."

Winterswyk (6-foot-4, 270 pounds), who walked on in January 2006 as a safety, became a key member in the line rotation as a freshman in 2007 and a starter in 2008.

This should have been his season in the spotlight. Instead, his senior year was his most challenging.

He sprained the medial collateral ligament and partially tore the meniscus in one knee in fall camp and needed surgery.

He started the season opener against Virginia Tech with little practice a decision he says might not have been in his best interest.

"I wanted to play in that game so bad," he said. "It was definitely my call on that one. It was worth it. I had a great time."

He didn't return to full strength, he said, until November. It didn't help that he was double- and even triple-teamed on game days, taking a pounding.

Twice in a row against Idaho, three players blocked him and a fourth had an eye on him, he said.

"The beginning of the year I'm not going to lie I got frustrated a little bit," he said. "You get used to it. You can only do so much. Then you've got to focus on being a smart football player. Most likely you're not going to beat three or four guys."

And while Winterswyk hasn't made as many tackles in the backfield as he's accustomed to, he likely will finish in the top five on the team in total tackles for the first time a sign that he isn't pressing.

"The stuff you don't see in the stats is his ability to leverage blocks or occupy double teams or do his job," defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. "Other coaches notice that type of stuff."

Still, Winterswyk didn't expect to land on the All-WAC team again this year. In fact, he didn't think he'd be close because his numbers are down.

"This one probably means the most to me because of that reason right there," he said.

The La Habra, Calif., product graduated in May and will turn his focus to earning a spot on an NFL roster after the Las Vegas game. He is considered a prospect.

"I think I'll have a really good opportunity to get a shot," he said. "And then we'll see how it works out from there. I'm just going to try to carry the same work ethic and intensity to the next level."