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A "Meaningful" Look at Cougar Football

A "Meaningful" Look at Cougar Football


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Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

My freshman year as a BYU student was the Cougar football team's national championship year of 1984. I found out very quickly what it meant to be a Cougar fan; now a new book gives us insight about "What It Means to Be a Cougar."

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BYU Associate AD for Communications Duff Tittle has compiled an entertaining and inspiring chronicle featuring contributions from dozens of BYU Football coaches, players and others who have been close to the program, from its earliest days to the current decade.

With forewords written by LaVell Edwards and Bronco Mendenhall, "What It Means to Be a Cougar" is a treasure trove of memorable personalities and stories. I consider myself to have a decent frame of reference when it comes to BYU Football, and I probably possess a fairly solid base of knowledge about teams and players, past and present. That said, it seemed that every page of the book introduced me to a part of BYU Football history of which I was unaware.

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Practically every player recollection begins with the story of how that particular player ended up at BYU, and those recruiting anecdotes are some of the book's most indelible highlights.

You will read about Curg Belcher, the player who "accidentally" committed to BYU. You'll get Lance Reynolds' recounting of how LaVell Edwards got Reynolds to BYU with the help of a Volkswagen and a trip to McDonalds. You'll be intrigued by Gary Sheide's circuitous journey to becoming one of BYU's first great quarterbacks. You'll see how another BYU QB star in Gifford Nielsen helped turn Vai Sikahema from someone who "hated" BYU into one of its most exciting players and most popular ambassadors. You might even be surprised to learn that BYU trusted Jim McMahon to be Leon White's recruiting host ("We had a ball," says White in the book).

I could keep listing story after story, but trust me: you will have a blast becoming acquainted with how some of your favorite Cougars came to wear BYU blue. You will see that LaVell Edwards was perhaps even more instrumental than you had imagined in persuading these players that BYU was where they needed to be. "The don't call him 'The Closer' for nothing," says Chris Hoke in his recruiting recollection.

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"What It Means to Be a Cougar" takes you behind the scenes and between the lines for some of the most memorable games in BYU Football history; from "The Miracle Bowl," to the win over Michigan for the national championship, to the "Last Miracle for LaVell," "Beck to Harline," and "4th- and-18."

There are also the hidden gems, like "Iron Mike" Mills' post-practice boxing match with an over-aggressive teammate, or Dick Felt's four touchdowns in the fourth quarter during a game he played as a 160-pound sophomore. You'll discover how Eldon Fortie became "The Phantom," how Jay Miller ended up catching 22 passes in a single game, how Steve Young watched Danny Ainge's amazing senior season as a freshman towel boy on the visitors' bench at the Marriott Center.

Rob Morris will reveal what happens when LaVell Edwards puts on the headset. Brandon Doman will reveal who placed the late-night phone call that helped to shape the triumphant conclusion to his BYU career. Max Hall will reveal how he knew Andrew George would be open for the game-winning TD to beat Utah in 2009.

All of these stories, and many more--they're all in there. "What It Means to Be a Cougar" gave me an entirely new appreciation for many of the athletes and coaches I already thought I knew pretty well. The new and unfamiliar stories I particularly enjoyed, but even the more well-known or recent episodes were as much fun to re- live in printed form as they were to enjoy as a fan in the stands, or as a broadcaster in the booth.

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Sincere thanks and kudos to Duff Tittle and all those who assisted him in this project. "What It Means to be A Cougar" is a must-have for everyone who loves BYU Football, and who thinks BYU is a special place. In reading, you will discover that the book's subjects believe the same thing.

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"What It Means to be A Cougar" is available now at local Barnes and Noble stores, the BYU Bookstore, Deseret Book, Wal-Mart, Costco and online retailers.

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SportsBYU Cougars
Greg Wrubell

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