BYU senior wide receiver Talon Shumway has been going Cougar football games as long as he can remember.
The first one he said he can vividly recall was watching BYU defeat Utah in 2001 when cornerback Jernaro Gilford — now the Cougar cornerbacks coach — intercepted a Ute pass to seal the win.
“I was a BYU fan,” Shumway said. “I remember where I was sitting for that one. I was pretty young. When I was little, I had posters up in my room. At heart, I’ve always been a BYU kid.”
He explained it was always his dream to play football at BYU, which might be why it hasn’t set in that he is preparing to play his final home game this Saturday when the Cougars host Idaho State (1 p.m. MT, BYUtv).
“The prospect of having no more games at LaVell Edwards Stadium after this week is kind of weird because subconsciously I just think it’s going to continue for the rest of my life,” Shumway said. “I know that’s not the case. I would be harder if it was my last game period — but it will be special. I’m sure I’ll think more about it retrospectively than I will in the moment. At some point, it’s going to hit me.”
Shumway believes this will be his 42nd game wearing his BYU uniform and he’s seen a lot of stadiums in that time, particularly with the Cougars being independent.
But BYU wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake said there is no place like home.
“What makes it so emotional is knowing that even though there might be other games following this, that is your home turf,” Sitake said. “It’s like you as a child leaving the house that you grew up in where so many memories and experiences happened. No matter why you are leaving, there are just special feelings that are there.”
He said he expects the seniors to feel those emotions strongly on Saturday.
“There is so much energy and investment that they have put into this place,” Sitake said. “Knowing this is the last time they play on that home field will make it an emotional day for them. The cool part is how many opportunities they will have in the future to drive by the stadium or reflect. That bittersweet feeling from Saturday will turn into just sweetness as each year goes by, knowing that they gave everything they have.”
Even for coaches who have experienced it throughout their careers, Senior Day is something unique.
“It’s special in different ways because of the relationship you have with each of those guys,” BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said.
Sitake will have three key seniors from his position group honored: Shumway, Micah Simon and Aleva Hifo. He said that during the week there is so much effort put into preparing for the game that sometimes the overall meaning gets overshadowed.
“It’s settles in for me when I sit and think about it,” Sitake said. “The three senior wide receivers specifically have done so much for this program their whole careers. This year with the growth they’ve had as individuals and as players, it’s overwhelming to think about. Knowing that this will be the last game that they play on that field is overwhelming. I can’t wait to see them play but at the same time I’m excited for the opportunities that lie ahead.”
At some point, football careers are going to end for all of the BYU players and they will move on to other things. That doesn’t mean they won’t wish at times that they could be back on the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium playing the game they love with their brothers.
“Next season is going to be hard,” Shumway said. “Maybe I won’t come to any games. Maybe I’ll just watch them on TV for awhile.”