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Dayan Ghanwoloku has grown into a versatile defensive back, and a better man, at BYU

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Dayan Ghanwoloku celebrates a touchdown in a game against University of Southern California in Provo on Sept. 14, 2019.

Provo • When Dayan Ghanwoloku first arrived at BYU, he came with an open mind and a trust in his coaches that they would help him become the best player and person he could be.

On the field, the coaches saw Ghanwoloku's capacity to fill any role asked of him. They quickly found out he could play corner and had the ability to get tackles on special teams.

Then, Ghanwoloku moved to safety last year, right up until the Idaho Potato Bowl, where he was suddenly put in at corner. In his final season at BYU, Ghanwoloku has continued to be moved around.

“The versatility is good — I feel like it helped me learn the defense a lot better and just positioning, where everyone is supposed to be,” Ghanwoloku said. “I enhanced my skills a lot, just learning the defense and playing full position. And also, just wherever my coaches and my team needs me to fill in.”

The shuffling has continued this season. After predominantly playing safety and being part of special teams on punt return, Ghanwoloku was thrown back in at corner against Liberty. It was the first time he played the position this year, but Ghanwoloku wasn’t fazed by it. Not at this point.

BYU AT SAN DIEGO STATE


When • Saturday, 7 p.m. MT

TV • CBSSN

“[Defensive back] is DB; you play safety or corner, you should be able to play all over the defensive backfield,” Ghanwoloku said. “To me, it wasn’t a big deal at all. People make it a big deal … to me it’s just defensive back. They ask me what position I play, I say I play DB. I don’t say I play corner or safety.”

Before starting his final season, Ghanwoloku set out a couple goals for himself. Even with two games left, he's already hit both of them.

The senior wanted to get to 200 total career tackles and break the program record for fumble recoveries. He hit both of those goals last Saturday against UMass.

Ghanwoloku has exactly 200 tackles and snagged his seventh fumble recovery to break the previous program record shared by Jan Jorgensen and Shawn Doman (6).

“Right now, I just want to go win out the season — beat San Diego State and whoever we play in the [Hawaii[ Bowl game,” Ghanwoloku said.

With a trip to San Diego State this week for the regular season finale, cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford has made sure to tell the seniors that it will be a game they definitely remember. So don’t hold back in preparation, he said. Don’t have any regrets.

With a personal history of going against the Aztecs before, Gilford knows what to expect on Saturday.

“From my experience, if you’re a defensive guy or a physical guy, these are the games that you want to play,” Gilford said. “Straight up, just your best versus their best. I look forward to it."

BYU set the right path

In high school, Ghanwoloku got into a lot of trouble. And it wasn’t the usual “skipping class” type of trouble — it was the type that got him sent to youth court.

He was following the wrong crowd and did dumb, stupid stuff because he wasn’t thinking, he said.

So, when it came time to get ready for college, even though he was also being recruited by Utah, Oregon, Nevada, UNLV, Utah State and Oregon State, Ghanwoloku wanted to come to BYU for all the reasons that the school, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, stands out.

Ghanwoloku said he wanted and needed the Honor Code to help keep him in line, and he would recommend BYU to anyone wanting to better themselves — whether LDS Church members or not.

“It was hard for me because of the life I did live before coming to BYU, and even when I got here I was still kind of getting into a little bit of trouble, but you just have to take it in,” Ghanwoloku said. “I just took it all in — going to church and living right. It helped me spiritually and physically, too, because I wasn’t going out drinking or smoking, stuff that was going to affect me on the field.”

Getting married last year also helped Ghanwoloku.

The defensive back met his wife Madison through mutual friends at Utah Valley University in February of last year. From that moment up until the day they got married, the pair hung out every single day.

“Because of her, I can play to my full potential without worrying about other stuff, just keeping my mind right,” Ghanwoloku said.

After he wraps up his BYU career, Ghanwoloku is going to put all of his efforts into pursuing his NFL dreams.

So far, he's been invited to the NFLPA Bowl in Pasadena in January. Then he hopes to sign with an agent and train until Pro Day with the hopes of being invited to a combine.

“BYU blessed me and they set me on the right path to be successful,” Ghanwoloku said.

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