Throwback Thursday: BYU Football Fall Camp Memories


Fall camp is always an exciting time. It officially rings in a brand new season of Cougar Football. Which should always get Cougar Nation jacked up more than their Mountain Dew can provide.

Fall camp though for all of its excitement hasn’t always brought the best of news for BYU Football. Most years you get the feeling that no news is good news in regards to camp. Either way, good or bad, the memories always stick with us.

In this latest installment of Throwback Thursday, I wanted to take a trip down memory lane looking back on some of my memories from Camp Cougar.

Picture Day

Few people probably remember this, but fall camp used to officially begin with a thing called “picture day” at Cougar Stadium (LES).

The players would get in suits and take their headshots for a new year, which you would then see in the first home game program. The media got their first chance to meet the team and chat with newcomers.

I remember chatting as a fresh-faced nine year-old with Ronney Jenkins about how he will better than ever when he comes back in 1998 from his honor code suspension. Brian McKenzie came over to sign my media guide and tell me how he was going to rush for 1,500 yards in his senior season. Talked with Kevin Feterik’s dad while he had his bright yellow Sony Walkman headphones around his neck, about his son’s bright future at quarterback, and how he should be the starting QB over Paul Shoemaker.

I miss the days of picture day. They were fun. Along with the headshot photos, you’d see players that were Eagle Scouts gather together for a picture. Then you’d see the team gather together near the north end of the east bleacher for the annual team photo. LaVell and his staff would be in white polo’s with khaki shorts as they grinned for another photo that would later be hung in the football offices at the Smith Fieldhouse. It was a simpler time to say the least.

Equipment Day

Equipment day a.k.a. “The day Mick Hill gets recognized”.  Today we will see players tweeting out photos of their new gear that will be headed out in the equipment room.

I remember in 1999 all the buzz around the new navy blue and tan gear.  Players loved it.  I just remember feeling empty, and missing BYU in royal blue.

Waiting on someone to get eligible

In the LaVell Edwards era it felt like every season there was one or two heralded signees that were a question mark to enroll. Usually it was guys that played cornerback for some reason. But in 1998 there was a heralded wide receiver from El Camino Junior College in L.A. named Jonathan Pittman.

Another fun thing about the Edwards era during camp was that you could go to any practice you wanted to. The gates were open and it was free to public. You didn’t have to battle hundreds of people to stand on a balcony at the student athlete building. You could just walk through the field while practice was going and see one of college football’s greatest coaches perform his magic from the comforts of his golf cart with his summertime straw hat on at all times.

More from BYU Cougars

My dad and I would always go down to camp every year to see the newest faces and get our fix of Cougar Football. We were curious what the status of Pittman was. We didn’t have the luxuries of Twitter or the Internet back then. So we go down to camp and again, you could just walk right through the field during practices; as we walk towards the wide receiver unit, I’m hearing Roger French drop every curse word in the book at his offensive linemen. Most kids learn soap words from what they hear on TV or from the bad kids at school, I can proudly say I learned cursing from my dad on BYU Football game days, and the legendary Roger French.

But back to Jonathan Pittman, we didn’t know what he looked like. Remember folks; this was before the Scout and Rivals days. No one knew what these guys looked like until the first game in most cases. That’s what made picture day such a cool event. Anyways, from watching the wide receiver unit workout we could tell Pittman wasn’t there. So we waited till the next water break and then went up to Margin Hooks to get the scoop on Pittman. “Hey Margin, what’s the latest with Pittman?” I asked. Margin replies, “Ah man he’s taking a test today. He will be good to go. No worries. Thanks for coming out today guys!” I respond, “Thanks Margin. Tear it up this season!”

Slip ‘N Slide

At the end of two-a-days BYU would always bust out the slip ‘n slide. The slide for years was a staple among Ute fans to poke fun at the “zoobs”. Regardless, it was a fun event for players to signal the end of the dreaded two-a-days.

I remember in 1998, LaVell chipped a tooth sliding down the watery slope. Can you imagine a stoic LaVell sliding down a slip ‘n slide? I still get numb just thinking about the possibility. Had YouTube been around then, the video of LaVell would have been viral.

Now instead of a slip ‘n slide, Bronco takes the team to a team-building activity. River rafting has been a common one the past few seasons.

Watermelon Bust

No, this wasn’t a chance for Gallagher to smash fruit in front of BYU fans. The Watermelon Bust was an event mid-way through camp that was always emceed by Blue & White Sports Network’s Blaine Fowler. Fowler would always open things up with how football season is finally approaching and how he knew the season was back by how his kids would sing college fight songs, and the Fowler clan would guess which team’s song it was.

Anyways, the Watermelon Bust would have a bunch of players go up to this podium and speak in front of Cougar Club members about the upcoming season and what they were planning to achieve as a team. In 2000, the entire squad was growing out mustaches similar to what the National Champion ’84 team did. Setema Gali Jr. and Kalani Fifita Sitake were very proud of their mustaches.

Then after players would speak, a truckload of watermelons would be available for Cougar Club members to eat. It was a fun event that BYU should bring back.

Lisfranc Injury

In 2007, BYU had three players suffer lisfranc injuries. Most of which came during fall camp. Lisfranc is a rare injury to the foot, but BYU was seeing guys drop like flies due to this mysterious injury.

Cade Cooper went down in the spring game. Then Jadon Wagner and David Tafuna both suffered the injury in fall camp.

Injuries in T-shirt and Shorts

There’s always an injury on day one or two of camp. Always happens where a player drops doing some random skeleton drill in t-shirt and shorts. I remember when JUCO wide receiver, Michael Morris went down with an ACL in 2004 doing a cone drill. Then Brandon Bradley suffered an MCL injury warming up the day before the first day of camp.

I want to say Ross Apo suffered an ankle injury on day one of fall camp in his first season at BYU in 2010.   Set the tone for the rest of his career I feel.

Scrimmage Reports

“John Beck threw a 85-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Todd Watkins in the 45-play scrimmage this afternoon.” That was basically the headline after every scrimmage in 2004.   Never had seen anything like it. It made you think, is Watkins and Beck that good? Or is BYU’s secondary that bad? The deep-balls ended up coming to fruition in actual games as Sports Illustrated dubbed Watkins as the best deep-threat in the country for the 2004 season.

Harvey Unga was another scrimmage hero. In 2007, Unga shot up the depth chart and became BYU’s #1 running back heading into the season-opener against Arizona. People actually believed Fui Vakapuna was a #1 running back. Crazy to think when you take a look back. Oh, and who could forget how we thought J.J. DiLuigi was going to be the next LaDainian Tomlinson. Thanks Petros Papadakis for those lofty comparisons.

When Fall Camp Ends

The best memory each year might be when fall camp actually ends. That means the team heads into game preparation, and actual games will start being played.

Get through camp healthy and bring on the UConn Huskies on August 29th.