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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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BYU football players rush to former staff member's defense

Ask anybody around the BYU football program which players that Duane Busby was closest to and three names will invariably come up: receiver Cody Hoffman, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and reserve tight end Richard Wilson.

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Busby, the former director of football operations who abruptly resigned on March 24 after 18 years serving in that capacity, is the focus of an ongoing investigation at BYU regarding alleged distribution of improper benefits, as you can read in this report in today’s Salt Lake Tribune.

Hoffman’s manager told two Salt Lake City radio stations on Wednesday that Hoffman denies receiving any impermissible benefits from BYU. Sam Leaf said the only thing Hoffman remembers getting from Busby was a pair of socks that probably came from the equipment room.

Van Noy could not be reached for comment on Thursday as he continues workouts with the Detroit Lions after that NFL club drafted him last week.

How about Wilson?

I called the oft-injured product of Spanish Fork High who recently completed his eligibility on Thursday. Basically, Wilson said the only thing he ever got from Busby was time. Busby was Wilson’s go-to guy whenever he needed someone to read a paper and make some edits and/or suggestions to improve it.

"He gave me a lot of help with my schoolwork, but that’s it," Wilson said, noting that he was "blown away" on Wednesday when 1280 The Zone reported that BYU was conducting an investigation into Busby’s alleged generosity.

Also, Wilson says he has not been contacted by BYU in the course of its investigation. Strange, since anybody who followed the men on Twitter knows they were good friends. Hoffman has said BYU contacted him months ago, but he declined to return to Provo to answer questions.

"I definitely never saw [Busby] give anything like they are saying to anybody," Wilson said. "From time to time, maybe I heard about somebody eating a meal with him, but that was as far I saw it, so hearing people say that he was giving out money, or giving people free rent, just kind of blows my mind because I never heard that and I never saw that.

I am pretty close to the so-called offensive stars that he was supposedly helping out, and I never heard or saw that happening, never saw anything of the sort."

Wilson said he last talked to Busby at BYU’s Pro Day, which was March 14. He was on campus a few weeks later and went to Busby’s office in the Student Athlete Building, only to find it had been cleaned out. He tried Busby’s BYU-owned cell phone number, but it had been disconnected.

Wilson said he has "no idea" who is making the allegations that Busby was involved.

"It is hard to say, because if people really knew Duane Busby, I doubt they would be saying these things, and they wouldn’t be accusing him unless they had hard evidence or proof.

Duane is such a good guy. He takes care of people. He knew the answers to everything. When people had questions, everybody went to Duane.

Maybe someone felt like Duane was rude to him and tried to get back at him. I just don’t know. This just kind of came out of nowhere for me. It really caught us all off-guard."

Wilson said Busby was easily the most-liked football staff member because of his caring attitude.

"He helped me a lot with my papers, because Duane knew a lot about writing and he was a good editor. He would read them over and make suggestions and point out little mistakes," Wilson said. "I think that is why coach Mendenhall thought so highly of him and that’s why everyone likes him, is because he works hard and does all the little things for the program that nobody ever saw.

He kept that program running the whole time he was there, doing all the things he was doing behind the scenes. "

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Obviously, I’ve been trying to get in touch with Busby since the day BYU announced his "retirement," but to no avail. For what it is worth, I drove down to Springville in hopes of catching him at the town home in which a reliable address search service says he lives in. Nobody was home, and neighbors said they believe an elderly couple now lives there. One neighbor who has lived on the street for more than 10 years said he has never seen young men who look like football players enter or leave the residence (one of the allegations is that Busby, a bachelor, allowed players to live with him).

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Because of some reports that Busby seemed to favor offensive skill players to befriend, junior running back Jamaal Williams’ name has been mentioned. I asked Williams’ mother, Nicolle, if Jamaal had told her anything about the situation.

"No, I haven’t heard anything and Jamaal doesn’t know anything," she said. "Of course, I am on the defensive side. Duane Busby is a great person. I hate when people speculate about things. Jamaal has not received anything. I have an apartment in Utah and I pay the rent. I financed Jamaal’s car and he has is own iPad. So Jamaal can be excluded from the speculation."

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Got word today that former BYU employee Jason Kaufusi might be able to shed some light on the situation, seeing as how Kaufusi was a graduate assistant at BYU in 2012 and an academic advisor in 2013. He was hired in December to coach defensive ends at Weber State. Of course, Kaufusi is a former University of Utah player and was an administrative at Utah under Kyle Whittingham.

Kaufusi said he knows nothing and wasn’t aware of any improper benefits being doled out during his two years at BYU.

"I just kind of chuckle, because it is hard for me to believe that it did take place, and if it did, that it came from Duane.

He’s the type of person that would take the jacket off his back to give it to somebody, or buy them a meal. He was just a very giving guy in terms of just being kind.

I am sure he knew the rules in and out, so I would be shocked if he was involved in anything like that."

Kaufusi said if it was going on, it was never discussed in 2012 when he was in coaches’ meetings.

"Duane was just a really conservative, quiet guy. He was really smart. He did a great job and was the best at what he did.

But that’s just the way Duane was," Kaufusi said.

Kaufusi’s brother is BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi and his nephew is linebacker Bronson Kaufusi. He hasn’t heard anything from them about the mess.

"I honestly don’t know anything about it," he said. "My thoughts would be, to what extent? You read the articles and everything, and then it is like, what are you going to consider an extra benefit? Is it a pencil, or a sticker, or a poster? I don’t know.

Whatever was in Duane’s office, wristbands, posters, towels, if he gave those to players once in a while, is that impermissible?

Now if he was giving out $1,000 or a car or something like that, that’s [obviously against the rules]. I mean, he is a great person to be around. He is really smart. He is really good at what he does. I don’t see him handing anyone a thousand dollars. But when you hear the term extra benefits, that is what comes to mind."



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