Thursday, November 8, 2012

Farewell to the BYU Football Seniors

I'm not really looking forward to the last home BYU football game of the season for two reasons-- first, I am going to freeze to death. I don't agree with the majority of this Gordon Monson rant, but I wholeheartedly agree with this part:
The single remaining home game for BYU comes against Idaho — at 8:15 Saturday night. Folks who schedule bad home games at LaVell Edwards Stadium at night in November not only have no consideration for season-ticket holders, for the fans upon whose backs the program was built, who regularly show up for home games, they also have no souls. It’s nothing short of cold and cruel — all for a game on ESPNU that few will watch.
It really is cruel and unusual punishment for us loyal fans. I say toss that stupid ESPN deal out the window! I just hope I don't have to leave early because of hypothermia setting in, especially since I don't even have the option of watching it on TV from the comfort of my apartment (I get all the ESPN channels except for ESPNU . . . grrrr).

Anyway, raison numero deux is that I'm sad that we must say goodbye to our seniors, all 24 of 'em (maybe 25 or 26, if medical redshirt petitions aren't granted). Some of them will leave fond memories in my mind for many years, while others I've never even heard of before writing this post. But I'm going to say something about each of them . . . Yep, that means this post is gonna be loooong. Bear with me.

Senior QB Riley Nelson
Riley Nelson- Losing Riley will be very bittersweet. Bitter because he didn't have the senior season that everyone expected, and that makes me really sad. Sweet because even though he doesn't have a career in the NFL, I think he will go on to do great things in his life. He can finally stop getting injured and go out there and make a real difference in the world. He's got real class, grit, and a really big heart. I have been rather critical of his football skills this season (and I'm certainly not alone in that), but my criticism was definitely meant to be constructive to the team as a whole. I know what it's like to be in pain ALL. THE. TIME. and it really sucks. I have no idea how hard it would be to play football with broken vertebrae, but I highly doubt it was easy. Despite a mediocre senior season, I really, truly think Riley is one of the best leaders, on and off the field, the BYU football team has ever had. And he will always be remembered as the guy who rescued us from a whiny, overrated Jake Heaps and won the 2011 Utah State game for the Cougs against insurmountable odds. I'm really, really going to miss him. Wow, I'm even tearing up a little bit while writing this. I'd better move on before I lose it . . .

James Lark- Oh, James Lark, the shadow of Riley Nelson. I feel bad for Lark-- Bronco really should have let him play more this year. He's a good pocket passer and can run decently, too. It will be hard to say goodbye to him when he really hasn't had a chance to shine, but I think he has made some solid contributions to the team. He has thrown for 159 yards and one touchdown in his college career thus far. Hopefully he'll get a chance to add to those numbers in the last few games of the season.

Riley Stephenson- The "other Riley" has had a rough year in some aspects, and a great year in others. I was just as despondent as he was when he missed that potentially game-tying field goal against Utah, ending the game for the 3rd time. However, he's been pretty solid when it comes to punting-- in fact, he's currently the #4 ranked punter in the country! He has consistently given the opponents really tough starting field positions, which has made a huge contribution to the success of the entire team. 

Braden Brown- A solid member of the O-line, Braden #1 has seen action in every game since his freshman year. He's got great footwork, a fiery attitude, and is a good pass-blocker. Rumor has it he's got a good shot at the NFL.

Braden Hansen- Braden #2 started every game in his career until a groin tear (ouch!) put him on the sidelines for several games this season. Hopefully he'll be back in time for the bowl game. Everyone knows we could use a healthy offensive lineman when that day comes . . . 

Zed Mendenhall- Zed has played fairly consistently in every game but one since his sophomore year, with 10 receptions and 56 yards total. He has only carried the ball once, but that happened to be a one-yard TD.

Reed Hornung- Reed has played in every game since transferring from Snow College in 2010 as a deep snapper. Did you know that without him, we may not have won the Armed Forces Bowl last year? That definitely deserves some major props.

Saw this on Pinterest and it made me laugh. Ziggy rocks!
Ziggy Ansah- It's going to be really, really hard to lose Ziggy. It seems like we've just barely started to get to know him and see what he can do on the field, and now he's leaving. In his first two seasons after trading in his track shoes for a football uniform (that he didn't even know how to put on), Ziggy had 10 total tackles. As a senior, though, he's racked up 44 tackles and 4 sacks in only nine games. I am really going to miss watching #47 mow down opposing players right and left and let out a subsequent primal scream. I never (and I mean NEVER) watch NFL football, but I might not be able to resist sneaking a peak at him in the big leagues. I really hope he goes to a team that will appreciate his unique skills and use them to the fullest. 

Romney Fuga- Fuga came back from a season-ending torn ACL in 2010 to anchor the BYU defensive line. He has contributed 122 tackles and 3 sacks since 2009. Despite a lackluster schedule for the rest of the 2012 season, he's optimistic and excited: "We'll probably get up even more because the season's winding down and the clock's ticking. We understand that there's only so many games left to play with each other. We're getting more excited and more up for each game as it comes along."

Simote Vea- He has played in 24 games and has 9 tackles. As a walk-on, he had to fight for playing time, but he's done really well. Coach Kaufusi dubbed him the "pit bull" of the team: " He just never quits . . . He won't quit trying, and that is what I want from all of my players."

Russell Tialavea- Tialavea has played in 43 games and has 62 tackles and 1 sack in his Cougar career. Although the thing that might be most impressive about him is that he chose to serve a mission between his junior and senior years, despite having to overcome a lot of obstacles to get there.

Uona Kaveinga- Uona went to USC right out of high school. Looking back, he says that decision was "immature," but he doesn't have any regrets. As the "leader on our defense" as proclaimed by Bronco Mendenhall in 2011, the linebacker has recorded 92 tackles in his 22 games as a Cougar.

Senior RB David Foote
David Foote- While David Foote has had limited carries in games during his college career, he has seen action in all but one game since his sophomore year, and he's put in a lot of effort behind the scenes. He was rewarded with a scholarship and status as a captain this year, which I think was well-deserved. He rushed for 296 yards and 1 TD and has 94 receiving yards.

Brandon Ogletree- Brandon is an "unsung hero" on the BYU defense. If I didn't know any better, I would assume the leading tackler on the team was Kyle Van Noy or Ziggy, but it's actually Ogletree. In fact, as of the Notre Dame game, he had 20 more tackles than anybody else on the team and 33 more than KVN. Dang. Ogletree has 216 tackles total and has also forced 3 fumbles and recovered 2 of them. Bronco Mendenhall once referred to Brandon on the field as: "kind of a twisted individual, which you want most of your linebackers to be," and a "Tasmanian devilish kind of guy." But off the field, he is polite and down-to-earth. Brandon graduating will leave a huge void on the defense.

Preston Hadley- Out of high school, Preston wasn't recruited by a single Division I school. He tried out to be a walk-on at Snow College, but didn't even make the first cut. He didn't give up, though, and finally fought his way onto the roster the next year. After two solid years at Snow and a mission to New York City, he transferred to BYU, quickly became a starting defensive back, and the rest is history. Hadley has 97 tackles and 20 pass break ups in his career.

Robbie Buckner- When asked why he wanted to come to BYU, Robbie said, "Other schools recruited me, but one thing that I wanted to do was go on a mission. I have a lot of family down here. It has been a dream ever since I was little." I approve. He hasn't gotten to play a whole lot, but he did have one very successful game against Utah State his freshman year in 2009, with 4 solo tackles.

Joe Sampson- This Cougar safety grew up in a crime-ridden Oakland, California, but he has found a new home where he feels safe and comfortable in Provo. For the most part (with the exception of missing a few practices for "disciplinary reasons"), he's had a great career, with 56 tackles. Brian Logan never hesitates to mention that Joe is his cousin, and he's proud of it. Hopefully Sampson has a good career ahead of him in the NFL.

Ian Dulan- Ian played for 3 years at BYU and put 51 tackles on the board before going on a mission in 2008. He redshirted last year, and unfortunately he hasn't played at all this year because of back injuries (I can relate, brother).

DeQuan Everett- A transfer from Cerritos Community College, Everett hasn't had the opportunity to play very much, but he does have a good sense of humor. Apparently before each game, he "[does] bicep curls and [puts] baby oil on while listening to Young Jeezy." Ummm, TMI.

Senior kicker Riley Stephenson
Ryan Freeman- He played in 6 games his freshman year, 10 games his sophomore year, and then had to quit because of injuries.

Austen Jorgensen- This guy got sidelined early last year with a shoulder injury and has only played in 4 games this year, but he had a great sophomore year in 2010 with 46 tackles. 

Rhen Brown- He hasn't played at all this year because of injuries, but played in 3 games last year and 5 the year before.

Walter Kahaiali'i- He retired from football at the beginning of this year with knee injuries, but he played in every game last year, plus 8 games in 2010 and 11 in 2007.

Jordan Richardson- Another injured early retiree. He played in 22 games over the last 3 years and served in 2012 as a student assistant coach.

The following two seniors were injured early in the 2012 season and are trying to seek medical redshirts, so they may or may not be saying farewell this Saturday:

Mike Hague- He went to Brighton, my high school's main rival, but I suppose I'll forgive him. :) After all, without a huge block from #32, this wouldn't have happened. Mike started out as a running back before his mission (and is best remembered for an 87-yard TD scramble against UNLV), but then switched to defense. As Bronco said, "Mike Hague is a solid contributor and someone who has my trust. He's worked hard to learn the defense and he's playing a valuable role for us." Hopefully he can recover from his calf injury and come back and play again next year.

Eathyn Manumaleuna- Eathyn was a starter on the defensive line from the time he returned from his mission until his 2012 season was cut short because of a torn patella tendon in the Boise State game. He blocked a UCLA field goal to secure a victory in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl and has recorded 96 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks in his career. I hope he can come back next year!

Holy moley, that's a lot of football players! There will definitely be some big shoes to fill next year. Good luck to all the graduating seniors and Go Cougars!


  1. A very nice tribute to the seniors. It really put into perspective the leadership and experience that will be moving on. I wish BYU could keep a lot of these guys for next year.

    As for Gordon Monson, he is a tool factory.

    1. Haha, very true. But he did have a good point in the horrible game time. Thanks, Frank!