My Experience Welcoming Home the Sweet 16-Bound Cougar Cagers!

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By: Mitch Harper (Twitter: @Mitch_Harper)

Right when the final buzzer went off on BYU’s victory over Gonzaga that had the Cougs etching their ticket to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years, I thought to myself I gotta find out when the Provo Airport rally is going down.

People were having the same thoughts as well.  Tweeting me to post info if I heard anything.  Got a tip from a very good source who told me 12:30 a.m. the Cougar Cagers would be arriving at the Provo Airport.  Posted it on Twitter, and it spread like wildfire.

Instantly grabbed my stuff, called up my pops to come down with me and we were on our way.  My fellow Cougar Center hosts had other priors.  So that was the reason for their absence.

Found the Provo Airport, as I was driving out there I realized I had never went West off of I-15 when in Provo.  It’s always been East of the Freeway, which I found interesting.  Found the Airport with ease and then we just waited for the plane to arrive.

Was sitting in the lobby of “Million Air” at first watching ESPN.  They showed the highlights of BYU’s win and we all started to cheer.   Then we all started filing outside to battle the elements and wait for our beloved Cougar Cagers.

Rain and a little bit of snow was coming down, but I didn’t care nor did any other BYU fan.  After waiting 30 years for this moment there could have been a infamous “Utah Blizzard” coming down and it would have not stopped me from waiting for this team.

While waiting for the team to arrive, finally had the opportunity to meet some great BYU fans.  Steve and Brandon.  Linked is there twitter handles so follow them Cougar fans.  But while meeting them, and talking to them about how awesome this moment was it made me realize how great sports are.  Truly brings people together to celebrate a cause and a goal that is bigger one’s self.  It’s really great and to just see Cougar fans everywhere pulling for this team is amazing.  Loved seeing the turnout at the Provo Airport.  A couple thousand people were there.  Truly remarkable.

Then after seeing two planes fly in that were just a bunch of rich ballers who apparently fly private jets to all BYU games, the team finally arrived!!

I loved every minute of this.  Seeing Coach Rose come out and do his patented fist motion to the crowd of BYU faithful, then all the players coming and high-fiving.  Shouting out to Coach Mike Hall.  Just a truly remarkable experience that I will never forget.

Then after all the players filed off the plane the fans started leaving as well.  The Athletic Department people started coming off the plane.  Shook hands with Tom Holmoe who was looking quite dapper in a Payne Stewart-style hat and a nice sweater.  That Tom I tell ya, a classy fella.  Chattin it up with Duff Tittle and some other great people.

Met Cheryl Rose, the 1st Lady of BYU Basketball (Coach Rose’s wife).  She, next to my mom might be the sweetest woman I have ever met.  Thanking us for all the support and everything we do.  Just a classy woman to the fullest.

Then the players were taking photos with all the fans and interracting with all of them.  Noticed no one was going up to Anson Winder and of all people, Brandon Davies.  Went up to those guys and told them, “NEXT YEAR GUYS! ITS YOUR TIME!” They said thanks, after we went up to them all of a sudden a throng of people were showing their love for Davies and Winder.  Cougar Center, always the trend setter.

Oh and that Jimmer guy?  Well he came off the plane and gave some high-5s but shortly after that was on a bus.  Understandably so.  The mob for Jimmer would have been insane.  Probably best to get him home and rest up.

(For the record, while I type this I’m listening to all three versions of ‘One Shining Moment’. Houston. Houston. Houston.)

But what a great night.  A full-circle moment to say the least.  BYU Basketball just 15 years ago was one of the worst teams in all of College Basketball and now we are a program that America is captivated by.  We have the best player in all of the land and now is our time.

The best part of all this is that the team feels there is more to accomplish.  And there is!  Everything is in their grasps now.  They can do it.  We believe.

But tonight, was a night to just reflect on how amazing this journey that is BYU Basketball has been over the years, and see this team happy and excited about what they are doing.  Will cherish this night for the rest of my life.

Go Cougars! We Are BYU!

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