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BYU football: Playing QB for BYU was demanding, fun, for former greats

Published July 21, 2012 9:51 am

College football • Cougar QBs must adapt to new role.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • Steve Young learned quickly not to compare himself to the greats who went before him, while Ty Detmer was thankful that in the beginning he didn't fully recognize the position's demands.

John Beck prepared himself for the role almost from the time he could walk, while it took Max Hall a bit of time before he was able to embrace all that it encompassed.

Whatever their story or how they got there, the men who have taken on the "office" of starting quarterback at Brigham Young University say it defined them then and even now, thanks to the groundwork laid down by the early All-Americans such as Gary Sheide, Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson and Jim McMahon.

"You are the quarterback at BYU, and you kind of have that tag on you, and you have to live up to it," Hall said.

Into that role now steps senior Riley Nelson, after high school All-American Jake Heaps — perhaps thrown into that searing spotlight too early — transferred to Kansas in the offseason.

Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman, who knows well the pressure of holding the office of quarterback at BYU, having led the Cougars to a 12-2 record as a senior QB in 2001, said he gives QBs a door code to access the meeting room so they can "just vanish from everybody." He explained: "Those barriers have got to somehow be in place. Otherwise, it is just too hard."

Young, who went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, said following McMahon at BYU helped prepare him to follow Joe Montana with the San Francisco 49ers, although he stayed true to his own playing style. He used the standards set before him "as rocket fuel, rather than an impediment or a weight."

Unheralded when he arrived at BYU out of Texas, Detmer realized things were going to be different after he became a starter, and grew to enjoy it.

Beck, now trying to make the Houston Texans' roster, knew what he was getting into as a lifelong BYU fan. He said his favorite part was meeting young kids with similar aspirations and slapping their hands when he came out of the tunnel to warm up. He even named his son Ty, because he loved watching Detmer play.

"You have to be able to accept everything that goes along with that — the responsibility, the scrutiny, the ups and downs," he said.

Hall left BYU in 2009 with more wins, 32, than any quarterback in school history. He described the role as "a ton of fun" last month and said he didn't regret a thing that he did at BYU.

"You get to play for one of the great all-time college football programs," Hall said. "And you get to play in a state where there is no professional football team, so you are treated like you are a professional. There's only us, Utah and Utah State pretty much, so you are treated just like an NFL quarterback; you get almost as much media attention. And then around town, you get so much attention, it is crazy."

drew@sltrib.com

Twitter: @drewjay