The North and the South...



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Okay Cougar fans, try this trivia question on for size: Which former Cougar is the longest-tenured current professional football player?

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If you answered... Ben Cahoon, give yourself hearty congratulations.

Yes, indeed, the former BYU wideout is entering his 12th pro season, all of them spent with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes.

Last night, in typical fashion, Cahoon paced the Als with 65 receiving yards on 6 catches, as Montreal beat last year's Grey Cup Champion Calgary Stampeders 40-27, in a Cup rematch played in Calgary. With his first grab of the night, Cahoon extended to 110 games his streak of games with at least one reception.

Cahoon has established himself as a true CFL legend, with eight 1,000-yard seasons in his 11 pro campaigns (with seven consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and counting). Last season, he led the CFL in receptions, while becoming the Alouettes' alltime leader in career receiving touchdowns. Cahoon also ranks first in the Als' alltime receiving yards and receptions categories, and is first alltime in CFL career receptions by a Canadian (although he was born in Orem, Cahoon is considered a "non-import" through his parents). While it's a subjective judgment, it is also not a stretch to say Cahoon has the best hands in CFL history; if he can touch it, he will catch it, and his annual bevy of acrobatic receptions are now so common that they're practically taken for granted.

Yet as productive as Cahoon has been throughout his entire pro career, he was actually prepared to step away from the game in 2005, for a return to BYU. Cahoon interviewed for the then-vacant wide receivers coach position--a job that was given to Patrick Higgins. Clearly, Cahoon had plenty left in his playing tank, because from the 2005 season onward, he has gone on to record 375 more catches for 4,675 yards and 25 touchdowns. The fact he was willing to walk away in his prime to coach at BYU tells you a lot about Cahoon and his affection for the Cougar Football program.

While Higgins has done a fine job tutoring BYU's wideouts, I also think Cahoon would have been a tremendous hire for Bronco Mendenhall. Should that particular coaching vacancy open up in the future, Mendenhall would still be well-served by adding Cahoon to his staff--assuming Cahoon still retains interest. While Ben has no coaching experience, he's a well-respected, high-character individual who knows more than enough to teach BYU's receivers the tricks of the trade (indeed, he already spends much of his offseason working with current BYU receivers and quarterbacks at the BYU facilities). It bears noting that Brandon Doman was hired in 2005 with zero previous coaching experience, and has been a fine fit as the quarterbacks coach, while going through the expected ups and downs of learning on the job.

Regardless of the career path he takes once his playing days come to an end (and there are rumblings this could be his final CFL season), Cahoon has maximized his natural abilities to a prolific extent, and his career numbers and longevity testify to remarkable toughness, unmatched ball-catching skill, leadership ability and strength of character. BYU would be very fortunate to have him rejoin its family someday, in some way.

In the meantime, I'll keep tracking Cahoon's 2009 season and have periodic updates in this space.

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Switching to hoops now, and Cougar Jonathan Tavernari remains in training camp with the Brazilian national team in Sao Paulo--prepping for exhibition tournaments in Portugal, which start late next week. The national squad has in the past week received assurances from both Leandro Barbosa (Phoenix Suns) and Anderson Varejao (Cleveland Cavaliers--free agent) that they will be joining the squad for the Tournament of the Americas, to be held in Puerto Rico starting in late August.

While the national federation has already paid the Suns to cover costs of insurance for Barbosa, Varejao first has to sign a new NBA contract before insurance terms can be settled. Nene (Denver Nuggets) is not expected to be on the team as he recovers from a broken arm. European standout (and San Antonio Spurs draftee) Tiago Splitter is expected to be with the national team in San Juan.

The presence of the pro standouts will make it tougher for the younger non-professionals (like Tavernari) to make the final cuts for the senior national squad, but head coach Moncho Monsalve appears to be a JT fan, and one would hope Tavernari can secure a berth, given his international experience gained last summer while playing for Brazil as the team's only non-pro in the Olympic qualifiers.

Meantime, former BYU center Rafael Araujo was named to the NBB (Novo Basquete Brasil--the country's new professional league) all-First Team earlier this week. Araujo's Flamengo squad won the first NBB Championship over the weekend. Interestingly, Rafa was ejected only two minutes into the fifth and deciding game, after getting into a mild tussle beneath the basket.

As noted here previously, Araujo will not be with the Brazilian team that travels to Portugal, but is expecting to make the senior national squad for the Tournament of the Americas. Certainly, Nene's absence all but solidifies Rafa's participation.

As a Brazilian (and non-BYU) sidenote, there could be an announcement as soon as today that some NBA players will play an exhibition game in Brazil in the near future. Varejao is expected to reveal that his Cavs teammate Lebron James will be part of the NBA contingent.

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While watching some high school teams play in the Marriott Center during BYU's elite camp last week, I chatted with Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) head hoops coach Grant Rice, the brother of BYU Associate head coach Dave Rice. Rice's Gorman Gaels (for whom Jonathan Tavernari also played) were in town for their annual summer camp stint, and although they played without three projected starters, they still looked pretty good. Cougar Mike Loyd's younger brother and senior-to-be John is an exciting point guard that BYU coaches (along with many others) have their eyes on.

Speaking of Gorman, the Gaels have produced three football players who will suit up for Oklahoma when the Sooners face BYU on September 5th. Included in that group are thousand-yard yard tailback DeMarco Murray, and starting linebacker Ryan Reynolds. The word on Murray: the Cougars had better stop him between the hashes, because if he gets to the edge, there aren't too many BYU players who will be able to catch him.

By the way, how unusual is it that Bishop Gorman should place three players in Norman? Well, consider that the Sooners have only six players from west of the Rockies, and half of them are from the same Las Vegas high school (the other three are from Oregon, Arizona, and another Las Vegas high school)--interesting.

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I received this note from the BYU Athletic Marketing folks yesterday:

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"BYU Athletics is holding the 2nd Annual Cougar Grid Vids competition. All excited football fans are invited to create a 30 second TV commercial for the 2009 football season. Six winning commercials will be selected, and one will be played at halftime of each Cougar home game on the Jumbo Screen. A Grand Prize winner will be selected to receive two season tickets and their commercial will be shown at the BYU/Utah football game on November 28, 2009.

Contest rules:

• commercial must be no longer than 30 seconds in length.

• Commercial must be BYU Honor Code appropriate.

• Commercial must exhibit BYU Athletics' theme of Tradition, Spirit, Honor.

• All DVDs must be submitted by August 1st, 2009 to Matt Fereday at Student Athlete Building, Room 306, or mailed to Matt Fereday at 306 Student Athlete Building, Provo, UT 84602. Include your contact information. Questions, email byucommercialcontest@gmail.com

• Winners will be selected the week of August 10-14, 2009"

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