BYU football: Cougar seniors complete final practice in Provo

BYU football
2011-12-24T00:36:00Z 2013-11-06T21:45:13Z BYU football: Cougar seniors complete final practice in ProvoJared Lloyd - Daily Herald Daily Herald
December 24, 2011 12:36 am  • 

Over the course of a football career, BYU athletes spend hundreds - or maybe even thousands - of hours on the indoor and outdoor practice facilities on campus.

For this year's senior class, the last of those hours has now been logged.

"This is the last practice I'll ever have here," said Cougar senior running back Bryan Kariya. "I thought it was a good one today."

BYU finished practice on Friday afternoon, will have the weekend off for the Christmas holiday, and then will head to Texas on Monday to complete preparations for next week's Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl against Tulsa (Dec. 30, 10 a.m. MST, ESPN).

That means players like Kariya will no longer be returning to those places where they have spent so much time. Looking back, Kariya said it's been an important part of the growth of the players.

"It's been about the unity of the team, to go out and accomplish something that is greater than any of us individually," Kariya said. "In two weeks, I'm not going to have practices or workouts or anything. I'm not going to have a locker and that's starting to impact me."

With the bowl game now less than a week away, the finality of their last game in a Cougar uniform is beginning to set in.

"I keep waiting for it, but it hasn't happened yet," said BYU senior offensive lineman Matt Reynolds. "It probably won't until I get to the locker room and start getting ready."

Bowl week is when they say it will really take hold - which is a good thing, according to Cougar head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

"I really haven't thought about that much," he said. "That becomes more of an issue when we get to the bowl game site. It's safer this way because the emotions that come with it are pretty strong so I'm trying to hold that up."

Kariya, a former walk-on, said he feels fortunate to have had all of the opportunities he got as a member of the BYU team.

"There have been a lot of lasts, but now it's starting to hit me," he said. "It's made me realize that it's been a special thing to be a part of for the past few years. We've had a lot of successful years. I'll always be able to look back and have good memories about what we were able to do and the fun I had out here."

He said he will always remember the odd, little things from practice. The annual slip-n-slide activity during fall camp stands out, but other than that he said it's hundreds of moments like guys that got into it with each other or seeing someone make a great catch.

"It's a routine to come out and work as hard as we can," Kariya said. "Even with that, though, there are moments that stand out. I don't know if I could single out any because there have been so many."

Once the season concludes next week, the seniors will move on to different walks of life.

Reynolds will be preparing for the NFL draft, looking to continue a career in football.

"Obviously there is some preparation that needs to be done with that but it's as little as possible right now," Reynolds said. "I'm trying to focus on finishing the last game the way I need to and then it's off to whatever comes next."

Many others, however, will see their playing careers come to a close. Kariya said he is planning to work for a couple of months and then head to dental school in Oklahoma.

Kariya said that while the games are the moments everyone looks forward to, he hopes that new recruits and young players appreciate all of the dedication and effort required every day at practice.

"I would tell them to make sure they enjoy the every-day experience," he said. "Don't overlook the fun you can have with your teammates. It may seem like a tough thing and it is, but it's an awesome experience."

Still wishing him the best: Mendenhall said he continues to support sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps and explained that the speed with which he made the decision to go to Kansas is probably a positive sign.

"I'm trusting he and his family researched it diligently," he explained. "I'm encouraged and happy that he found a place so quickly, and I assume it will fit his needs. I bet they feel comfortable and are excited."

Mendenhall reiterated that he thinks Heaps is an NFL quarterback and hopes the offensive system of new Jayhawk coach Charlie Weis will allow him to develop his talents.

Academics in play: For every season since Mendenhall took over as the head coach, the Cougars have participated in a pre-Christmas bowl game (five times in the Las Vegas Bowl and once in the New Mexico Bowl).

With the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl occurring later, Mendenhall said that final grades might affect player eligibility.

"Not all the grades are in yet but this is a unique situation," he said. "Since this one takes place after the grades should be in, there is a chance it could be an issue."

He went on to say that he was confident that his athletes would be in good standing, but said the academic staff were keeping an eye on the situation.

No surfing: When asked how the post-Christmas bowl affected him and his family, Mendenhall immediately said, "I don't get to surf. It's a bummer. Might as well say it like it is, right?"

He also said with a grin that he would get started on his holiday shopping when he was done talking to the media after practice on Friday.

Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or at He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.

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