I was alive when the BYU football team featured a gifted receiver named Danny Plater, although I admit I didn’t pay enough attention to know about his impact.
Plater tallied 1,915 yards on 121 receptions with 16 touchdowns during his 36 games as a Cougar from 1978-81. I later learned of the brain tumor that ended his pro football career before it started and created many problems for him later in life.
I didn’t start getting to know Plater until the mid-2000s, when he was an assistant coach at Timpview under Chad Van Orden. For nearly two decades, I would become familiar with the enigmatic man and call him a friend.
While there have been many great stories shared about “Danny” and “Pluto” since Plater died of a brain aneurysm in March, I want to focus on the man I knew for this tribute.
I had the chance last week to talk to Andrew Badger, a wide receiver on the 2004 Thunderbird football team who played under Plater’s tutelage and also became a friend.
Badger is now living in England and helping coach football at Oxford, but would frequently spend time with Plater whenever he returned to Provo.
Badger first remembered meeting with Plater when he joined the coaching staff at Timpview.
“The first thing he said to me was, ‘Are you No. 2? Are you any good?’” Badger said. “I was like, ‘yeah, how do I respond to that?’ He was quite the character. He had kind of an unconventional approach to things, like not lifting weights on your lower body and just running. One time at practice, he wanted us to kind of take a break so he got us in a chorus line and was like directing us to sing theme songs. But we obviously learned a lot from him.
“As a football player, he had a great depth of knowledge about route running. I remember in the second half of the season, I would always spend like 15 minutes with him, just going over some one-on-one drills, and he would always be there for me.”
While Plater might have had a unique way of coaching, that Thunderbird squad had plenty of talented and ended up defeating Lone Peak to win the 4A state title.
“I’m glad he was a part of that,” Badger said. “He always reminded me that when I scored a scored a touchdown in the championship game against Lone Peak, he said he was in the booth and he called that play for me.”
Plater ended up staying close to the Badger family although his mental illness challenges created a lot of problems for him.
“We’d go play golf and I helped him help to move,” Badger said. “He had a hard time getting himself to do things like go to the hospital and he also didn’t have family around. We also would invite him over for holidays to be with our family.”
Badger said that many people saw the aggressive side of Plater but he got to know the soft side by being around him so much.
“He was quite lonely,” Badger said. “But he had that really genuine soft side. I remember dropping him off after he spent Christmas with our family and him really expressing that thanks to me for thinking about him and spending time with him.”
I saw both sides of Plater when I got a chance to spend some time with him in 2007. He applied to be a freelancer for the Daily Herald and cover some high school games, so he came into the office on a couple of nights to work on his stories.
I saw a man who loved the game of football and would get so excited about crafting the articles, but who also had a tough time staying focused and getting things done on deadline.
After a few weeks, he ended up moving on but I still got to see him at a lot of BYU events.
“He loved going over to BYU,” Badger said. “He loved hanging out with the football players. He loved talking to people. You would take him to a restaurant and he would talk to everyone, ask them about how they’re doing. He always loved football and followed the BYU team quite closely.”
In recent years, I would often see Plater at the Cougar football offices when I was waiting to talk to players and coaches, although he also spent time with other BYU sports programs.
Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said at the end of March that Plater’s presence will be missed.
“He was a great player back in the day and I’ve been really thankful that we have players who embrace former players who have been through here and then respect them for for all their sacrifices,” Sitake said. “I think the connection that he had to our players is something that he really relished. Every day we’d see him. He had a great connection to the administration, but also to the coaching staff. He’ll be missed. We knew that he was going to always be supportive of our program and especially the wide receivers, so hopefully this will be a good year for the wideouts to show out for him.”
Even though there were times he got frustrated with Plater, Badger said it will hit home that his friend is gone when the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted and he is able to return to Utah.
“On the inside, he was so sensitive and genuine,” Badger said. “But it could be very hard for him to interact with people at times. Fortunately for the last 10 or 15 years he had the BYU network to help him. I think it’s really gonna strike me when I’m able to go back home and not have him call me. It’ll be sad for sure.”
Badger told me that he sees Plater’s legacy as teaching all of us to not being too quick to judge.
“You just never know what someone is going through,” Badger said. “That’s why you need to be patient and be nice to people. People could be pretty standoffish to him and tried to avoid him, which I think was hard on him. You just never know what people are going through and what their backstory is.”