As the BYU football team hits the middle of August, there is a sense of rigid repetitiveness that exists for the players no matter how much they try to fight it.
“Sometimes days go together,” Cougar junior defensive lineman Bracken El-Bakri said. “You only spend time here. You get here at 7 a.m., then don’t leave until 8:30 or 9 p.m. It kind of becomes like this is all I am. What I do is team session and one-on-ones and film study and practice. It’s always going to be like this.”
But coming to the 2019 Cougar Kickoff at Haws Field on Wednesday night did something important for the athletes.
“It kind of drives it home that in two weeks it is war time,” El-Bakri said. “You come out here and people are like, ‘We are SO excited for the Utah game!’ You wake up to the fact that we are about to do this.”
The annual event is a chance for BYU athletes in just about every sport to interact with each other and with the fans.
One of the highlights on Wednesday was seeing some of the Cougar football players have an impromptu dance-off with members of the girls soccer team.
Both groups got to show off some moves but in this particular case the boys from the gridiron probably had the edge.
“I’ve seen these guys dance,” El-Bakri said with a grin. “I just stand on the sideline for that part.”
Of course, the Cougarettes weren’t very far away and if they had gotten involved, they certainly would’ve been the favorites.
The laid-back atmosphere of the Cougar Kickoff allows the athletes to step back and have fun.
BYU junior defensive lineman Zac Dawe showed off his balloon-animal skills as he put together a dog for a lucky fan.
Then there was sophomore kicker Jake Oldroyd, who took a moment to be the holder for former Cougar kicker Jonny Linehan on the inflatable kicking setup.
It wasn’t just football players who were enjoying themselves. The gymnasts were doing routines and helping kids on the uneven parallel bars while the women’s volleyball team had a dunk tank set up and the cross country team was organizing races on their course.
A new addition this year was the presence of the BYU men’s basketball team.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Cougar senior forward Dalton Nixon said. “My wife (Taylen Ballard-Nixon) has her booth with the volleyball team and we have cornhole and ladder-ball set up here. It’s fun for my wife and I to be here together.”
The Cougar hoopsters are getting ready to leave this week for their trip to Italy.
“I’m going to miss my wife but this is a great opportunity to be with the guys,” Nixon said. “We want to take the last week-and-a-half of practice and translate that into the games. We want to develop chemistry and togetherness as we get ready for the season. That’s going to be vital for this group.”
Both Nixon and El-Bakri said they enjoyed the chance to be around the young fans and see their excitement.
“I like being the first person to sign something,” El-Bakri said. “I love when they’ve been walking around with a poster but then they realize they are wearing a hat. They take it off and it’s like, now we are talking. That’s something with some flavor.”
The hope for all of the Cougar athletes is that meeting all of the faithful BYU supporters will provide an extra burst of enthusiasm to put in the effort to be their best.
“It brings focus on the main goal,” El-Bakri said. “There is energy and it’s cool to see the little kids. I love that. But it also bring focus and it’s like, let’s get to work here.”