There's no doubt that the bulk of the load for BYU to have a successful football season in its first year of independence will rest on the shoulders of Bronco Mendenhall and players like sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps
But on the initial football media day held Tuesday by the Cougars on campus in Provo, many of the players who laid the groundwork for such a bold step in years past also got to talk about BYU football.
"We obviously feel good about what we did," said Hall of Fame coach LaVell Edwards. "We had a lot of good players and good coaches. We embarked on the passing game that hadn't been done to the extent that we did it. That created some excitement and we won a few games. To see it continue on now and make football a major presence at BYU, I think that's a part makes us feel good about what's happened."
Edwards was joined at the Legends Roundtable by former players Ty Detmer, Trevor Matich and Bryan Kehl, while Steve Young participated from California via satellite.
These big names for Cougar football history bantered about past experiences, talked about what the current program is doing and, in one of the more humorous portions of the broadcast, recalled trips to Laramie to play at Wyoming.
One of the best stories was told by Detmer, who talked competing against the Cowboys in 1990. He related having a fan heckle him before the game and then, after BYU had a comfortable lead and the starting quarterback had been removed, continued with his derogatory comments.
Finally Detmer said he turned to the fan and asked if he came back if there would be a place to go hunting. The Wyoming fan changed his tune almost immediately and invited the Cougar quarterback to return for a hunting trip.
"I guess I just had to speak their language a little bit," Detmer said in his soft Texas drawl, drawing laughter from the audience.
For the former players and their coach, coming back to BYU was a great chance to reconnect with old friends.
"It was like you never left," Matich said. "We all go our different ways but when you get back together, it 's like you never left. LaVell (Edwards) looks a little different but so what? I still look at him and fear that he's going to make me run a lap.
"I think that's because of the shared sacrifice for a common goal that, at the time to you, there is nothing more important. That drives a bond that never goes away. I haven't talked to Steve (Young) in a long time because our paths don't cross. I've only talked to LaVell a few times. Once you pay the price for everything it means to be a teammate, you'e always a teammate."
Even Kehl, now a linebacker in NFL for the St. Louis Rams, couldn't help but be somewhat awed by the stature of the players who had also returned.
"It's cool to be rubbing shoulders with guys I grew up watching and idolizing," the former Cougar linebacker said. "It's taking me back to my childhood, seeing these guys."
Even though the past was enjoyable to recall, the present opportunities for the BYU football team were still the hottest topic.
"I think it (independence) will be good," Kehl said. "I'm very confident the team will do well because I've seen them. I'm very optimistic because they look good. I'm jealous because they get to play some of the teams that I wish I'd been able to play when I was here like Texas and Ole Miss. They'll have that opportunity over the next few years being independent. Now they just need to go win some games."
Detmer said those big games against big-time programs are a great opportunity for the current athletes.
"It's going to be exciting for the fans, for the team, for everybody," the Heisman Trophy winner said. "At the same time, I'm sure it's a headache for Tom Holmoe to schedule games and figure out where and when."
The 2011 BYU football team gets one of those big contests right off the bat as it heads to Ole Miss on Sept. 3. Matich said he'll be watching a certain part of the action as an indicator to how successful the Cougars will be this fall.
"I expect them (the Rebels) to try and take over this game by trying to mash the ball down BYU's throat and keep Jake Heaps and the offense off the field," the ESPN college football analyst said. "If the nose tackles can make a pile in the middle to free up the linebackers to run and make stops in the running game, then I think BYU will win that game.
"If they can hold up that way man-for-man at the point of attack against Ole Miss, they can do it against anyone in the country. Watch the nose tackle position on defense. If they can do it, it's going to be a good year."
Jared Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.