Having spoken twice via telephone to former BYU running back Joshua Quezada the past few days -- for about five minutes on Monday before he had to run, and for about 15 minutes on Tuesday -- I am still not completely sure why "Juice" is transferring away from BYU.
He says he has his reasons, but is being purposefully vague because he doesn't want to come across as "that guy" who is a malcontent and runs away from challenges. He said he doesn't want to point fingers at certain coaches, or look like he's blaming someone else for why things didn't work out as well as he would have liked at BYU.
In case you missed it, BYU announced last Friday night (best time to release bad news, right?) that Quezada, with two years of eligibility remaining, had decided to transfer. The release included a statement from coach Bronco Mendenhall about Quezada being "a great young man" and noted that the Cougars "will miss him" but are "supportive of his future and his goals."
Not surprisingly, It did not answer the questions that rattled around Cougardom -- after the shock had worn off -- for most of the weekend.
And why now -- less than two weeks before the start of fall camp?
Quezada started to tell me why on Monday morning, before having to run. He called me back Monday night to continue our conversation, but I was at a Salt Lake Bees game with my family, with no pen, notepad or recorder in sight, and unable to talk. So we got back in touch on Pioneer Day, and he asked me to forget what he had said the day before. He said he wasn't thinking clearly, wasn't quite prepared to talk to a reporter.
So we started over.
When I asked Quezada on Tuesday what the "main reason" was for his decision to transfer, he said:
"To be honest with you, the main reason I left is just because, you know, I had a fun time at BYU. I love it there. I've been there for two and a half years, and so a lot of my friends are there. I made some real close friends there and I made some close relationships with the people there. So it has been a really fun experience.
It was not like I was there for no reason. I enjoyed my time there and I learned a lot. Just, I have been praying about it, and discussing it with my family, and I felt like this was the right thing to do, for me and my family.
If anything, that was probably the main reason: I felt like it was the right thing to do for me, and my family, and this allows me to move forward for them."
I asked Josh about the strange timing of his decision, after Mendenhall said at media day last month that Quezada had a great spring camp and was doing well in school.
"Just, if I wanted to push anything to [BYU fans], it is just to say that it was a decision that I made with my family and myself. I don't really want to get into details and single anybody out. That's the biggest thing that I do not want to do," he said. " I don't want to blame any individuals or anything. If anything, the thing I want to push is that I felt like it was the right thing to do, just for myself and for my family. That's probably the biggest thing I want to push out, because I don't want to be known as 'that' guy that just blames other people."
No question, Quezada's playing time decreased this past season, as fellow junior Mike Alisa became the Cougars' primary ball-carrier, and flourished in the role, while Quezada spent considerable time on the sidelines, watching.
He rushed for 505 yards on 99 attempts as a freshman, but just 298 yards on 86 carries as a sophomore. He leaves as the 36th most prolific rusher in school history, according to the website Cougarstats.com, with 803 career rushing yards.
Was his decreased role a factor in his decision?
"Looking at the big picture, it wasn't about that as much," he said. "It wasn't an easy decision for me to make, because I love everything about BYU, the people and the place. It is a different place. Once I got there, I realized, whoa, this is really a different place. It's a sweet program, so leaving it was hard for me. But at the same time, you know, I felt like it was the right thing to do. Just, in the big picture, I felt like it was the best thing for me and my family."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Quezada had not been contacted by any other schools, but expected to hear from some "as the word gets out that I'm available." He said if he has to, he will contact the schools that offered him scholarships out of high school to see if they are still interested. Those include Washington, Hawaii, San Diego State, Fresno State and Utah.
He said BYU will release him to any school in the country, no questions asked.
Even Hawaii? I asked, alluding to the Wadsworth Affair.
"Even Hawaii," he laughed.
According to NCAA transfer rules, he must sit out a year -- he has a redshirt year available -- if he transfers to another school in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), which is his preference. He can transfer to an FCS school (such as Weber State or Southern Utah) without penalty, but sees that as a last resort.
"Hopefully by the end of this week, or next week, I can be at another major university," he said. "I am still trying to do my homework. I am looking for a place that will be the best fit for me, and a full opportunity, and the whole nine [yards]. ... I will talk to my family about it. If it takes going out of state, I wouldn't mind that. Being in Utah, away from my family, I learned how to be more independent, so if it takes leaving the state, then that's fine. It really doesn't matter if I stay in the state or not."
At that point, Quezada shed a little more light on why he's leaving BYU, if you read between the lines.
"I will probably look for a program that has a pro-style offense, also, and, just an opportunity to play," he said. "That's what you are always looking for, so you are not just sitting on the sideline. So I am looking for a program that will definitely give me a chance. I want to have a close relationship with the coaches there. Playing time is huge, but at the same time, the key is to be patient. That's the key. My whole redshirt year, I am basically starting over. I feel like I will be like a freshman again. So I have to be prepared for that mentally."
Quezada said it was difficult to tell Mendenhall he was outta here.
"The way he handled the situation was that he seemed like he was really sad to see me go," Quezada said. "He told me he loves me. But yeah, he wasn't really hostile throughout the process. He said, 'if you need anything, let me know, don't hesitate to ask.' He was real supportive of the whole situation.
He is still the same guy that I met when I first came into the program. He is really truthful and straightforward about everything. He said he was sad to see me go. Mainly, he's just a great coach. That's all I can say."
Last December, one of Quezada's older brothers, Joseph, died in a tragic automobile accident in California. But Josh Quezada said that's not the reason he's transferring.
"Not really. It has been a learning experience. I wouldn't necessarily say that's part of the reason why. It did effect me, but in making the decision, it wasn't really a factor," he said.
Also, Quezada said he was doing well in the classroom and is on track to graduate in a couple of years.
"Oh, of course," he said. "If anything, I learned a lot at BYU. Education-wise, things were going well. I enjoyed the classes there. The teachers there are very different than they are at other universities, I believe. Of course, I am going to find out soon.
But from my experience, the teachers are there because they want to be there. It's the same thing with football. So, mainly, I loved the teachers there. They really taught as if they wanted to be there. The teachers are a lot like the players on the football team. It's their passion, and you can see that. It's something they enjoy and love doing. They don't have to be there. It is a matter of choice."
Quezada said he had an easier time adjusting to the uniqueness of BYU than most non-Mormons recruits (he mentioned fellow class of 2010 recruits Tayo Fabuluje, Kory Gaines and Drew Phillips, who have also departed) because he grew up in a religious home where similar values were taught.
"I think for the most part, if you don't have a religious background, BYU can be very different," he said. "Of course, it all depends on who you are. Some of the guys that do come in aren't totally aware of how it is, you know, so when they come it is a bigger shocker, and they don't fully know what they are getting into, even though coaches go over that when they are recruiting you.
When I came out there, I came first on an unofficial visit, and then later took my official visit. It was still the same way that it was on my first visit, still the same people, same rules. So it all depends on who you are, and how you handle things, because it is really a different place, a unique place, definitely. It can be hard, just based on who you are."
In a way, Quezada acknowledged that his situation is a lot like that of Jake Heaps, the quarterback who transferred to Kansas. Both entered the program with a lot of hype, and both played a lot as freshmen before seeing their playing time diminish in Year Two.
"It is crazy how much of my class is gone," he said. "We had a really good recruiting class at the time. But it seems like half of them went on their missions. So technically, when I played my freshman year, I was playing with the class of 2008. So I had a whole new group of guys to get to know. I wasn't even playing with my class. And now, the numbers keep decreasing. It is pretty crazy to look at it now, and who is left in my class."
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