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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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Still hearing from irate Zags fans, Kaufusi rejoins BYU football team

Having joined the BYU basketball team in late December after the football team's season ended with a 23-6 win over San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl, defensive end Bronson Kaufusi quickly became a fan favorite at the Marriott Center, drawing a big roar of approval when he entered games and/or made plays.

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Certainly, he's not a favorite of Gonzaga fans, after laid out the Zags' Kelly Olynyk when GU visited Provo on Feb. 28. Kaufusi was assessed a flagrant foul on the play, although he says it wasn't as bad as it looked. Standing over a prone Olynyk as if he had just recorded a quarterback sack probably earned Kaufusi the flagrant -- and the ire of Zags fans -- as much as anything else.

It would have been interesting for Kaufusi on Monday night at Gonzaga fan-packed Orleans Arena if BYU would have faced the Zags in the title game. Alas, the Cougars didn't come close, falling to San Diego in the quarterfinals last Friday. Gonzaga pounded Saint Mary's in the title game after Saint Mary's edged San Diego in overtime in a semifinal Saturday.

Kaufusi made his first appearance at a BYU football spring practice on Monday, and even got time with the first team defense in the team session of practice. Having read some of the stuff written about Kaufusi on Gonzaga fan message boards recently, I asked Kaufusi if he was receiving a lot of "feedback" from Gonzaga fans after the foul on the WCC's Player of the Year.

"Um, I got a little bit of it, but it wasn't that bad, so yeah, I don't think they were too miffed," he said with a smile.

When I asked him how he was getting the feedback, he said: "Oh, just like things on social media. I don't think they were too happy."

Kaufusi said he will continue to practice with the football team -- Wednesday and Friday, most likely -- until the basketball team's plans are solidified. The Cougar hoopsters will learn on Sunday night whether they have been invited to play in the NIT.

"Oh, most definitely, I will return [to basketball]," he said. "The season is not over, so I will just go right back [when they start practicing again]. ... That has always been the plan. I just wanted to come in today [to football] and get my feet wet a little bit."

Regarding the way the Cougars lost in the WCC tournament to San Diego, Kaufusi said it was difficult for seniors Brandon Davies, Brock Zylstra and Craig Cusick. Word is that Davies was so devastated after the loss that he begged out of the postgame news conference. Tyler Haws and Cusick appeared, along with coach Dave Rose.

"It is always a tough one, especially losing and having seniors like Brandon, Brock and Craig. So it was tough. I give credit to the other team, they came out on top," Kaufusi said.

Kaufusi described himself as "a little bit rusty" on the football field Monday, but said it was "fun to be out there with the guys again" and that his goal now is to show coaches he has what it takes to be one of the two starters at defensive end this coming season.

"I think I have a good chance. I know I have to, like every player has to come out and prove himself. I know I have to do that as well," he said."

So what do Kaufusi's football teammates think of his foray into basketball?

"I think it is crazy," said All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy. "You admire it. It is something that kids, they talk about it, but to actually see it, it is impressive to be in shape like that, to transform your mind going from the football field to the basketball court, it is a hard thing to do.

He is one of those guys that has the mentality to do it, and it is impressive. And big props to him."

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