Cougar Kickoff

Young fans meet BYU sports heroes at annual Cougar Kickoff

2012-08-22T01:30:00Z 2013-11-06T21:45:24Z Young fans meet BYU sports heroes at annual Cougar KickoffJared Lloyd - Daily Herald Daily Herald
August 22, 2012 1:30 am  • 

Some little faces appeared awestruck. Others had more of a look of determination as they sought out the next big name.

One young guy in a small football jersey got so excited after he got an autograph that he started jumping up and down, then tumbled to the ground.

That drew smiles and laughter from the members of the BYU football team watching, but in many of the youthful visitors they met at the annual Cougar Kickoff Tuesday night the players saw themselves.

"It's a surreal experience to be in these different shoes," said BYU senior safety Mike Hague. "Now you are the one interacting with the kids. I remember being the kid who just wanted to shake the hand of a college football player."

Cougar athletic director Tom Holmoe walked through the hundreds of people of all ages that came to meet the fall sports teams and said he enjoyed seeing the athletes mingling with the youngsters because he knew all of them had been that kid at some point.

The football team was spread out across Haws Field with two of the biggest lines leading to tables where senior quarterback Riley Nelson, junior wide receiver Cody Hoffman and junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy were waiting.

Fans also got to take photos with the BYU cheerleaders and Cougarette dance team, shoot goals and play soccer with the women's soccer squad, and hit a beach ball over a net with the women's volleyball team.

Most, however, were focused on getting signatures from their favorite stars. The majority used the free posters provided at the event but others got autographs on shirts, hats, helmets, even on old benches removed from the Marriott Center.

There were also plenty of players wandering around to visit with the fans. Cougar senior center Brandon Davies didn't have a table to sit at, but still drew a crowd of basketball fans looking for photos and autographs.

Holmoe said the athletic department tries to be very conscientious of the time of the athletes, all of whom practices earlier in the day, and explained that since BYU hasn't started school yet this is a good time for this type of event.

Hague agreed, saying it was his fifth year now and he likes the opportunity to meet the fans on a more personal basis.

"We're a little tired (after practice) but this is about the fans," he said. "I think it's great that the kids can come out and meet who they want to meet."

Holmoe said he sees a lot of value in the young fans and uses them as a barometer for the health of the program. He said if kids are going to the games, than the teams are doing pretty well.

Many of the same fans will probably be back in Provo on Aug. 30 when BYU football hosts Washington State in the season opener.

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

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