Derik Stevenson: My Favorite Road Venues During My Playing Career at BYU


Editor’s Note: Derik Stevenson played linebacker for BYU from 1992, 1996-1998.  In his latest article, Derik shares some of his memories and experiences from his favorite road venues he played at as a Cougar.

With our boys heading in to Austin for a big game against Texas this weekend, my mind goes racing back to some of the most memorable places I was fortunate enough to visit, and to play football.

Football brought so many blessings into my life. It has allowed me to travel the country, and the world for that matter.

My wife and I were blessed to live in South Beach, Miami while tried playing for the Miami Dolphins. Then football took us to Europe. Probably the only place in the world that could one-up the craziness of South Beach, Florida was Holland in the Netherlands. So of course, that’s the team that would draft the newlywed Mormon kid was the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL-Europe.

I was blessed to be able to strap up the helmet and inflict pain in Berlin, Germany, and Barcelona, Spain. I’ve covered a kickoff on the sacred ground that is Lambeau Field in Green Bay. I was juked out of my jock trying to tackle the untouchable Barry Sanders. Football was my ticket to experience many awesome places.

All of those places in professional football were great. But the most memorable games and experiences I experienced as a football player were in good old-fashioned college football venues.

My very first Division 1 college football game was in Indiana versus the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. As a skinny, 18 year-old freshmen at BYU, Lavell Edwards had made the decision to redshirt me so I could pack on a few pounds. But a couple games into the 1992 season, we had a pair of linebackers go down due to injury. Coach Edwards then called me into his office and informed me that I’d be taking the field the following weekend in South Bend. My head basically exploded. The last football game I had played in at the time was nearly a year ago, and it was against 16 & 17 year-old kids from West Covina High in California.

Buckling up my chinstrap and walking out of the locker room onto that historic Notre Dame field was one of the most memorable moments of my life. We looked up and saw the Golden Dome, Touchdown Jesus, and then before I knew it I saw “The Bus”, Jerome Bettis.

Bettis had all of his teammates behind him and he was barking at us like a dog. Some innocent pushing with The Bus and his teammates then led to shoving, and before you knew it we had kicked the game off early and started fighting before the warm-ups even began.

Flash-forward to my senior year in 1998, we opened at Alabama. Playing at Alabama was probably a bigger rush than the thrill of playing on the hollowed grounds of Notre Dame.

The religion of football is preached everywhere you go in Tuscaloosa. The tailgate parties start the day before the game, and traffic jammed the roads before and after the game for hours.

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On the day of the game, we boarded the bus at the hotel before heading to the stadium. The traffic was so bad on those Tuscaloosa roads that a police escort took us into oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the freeway in order to get us to the field on time. As we stepped off the bus, an armed Alabama State Trooper greeted us with the following, “We like to bring you boys down here, treat you right, kick your ass, and send you home.” They did just that. The ghost of Bear Bryant haunted us that game, and it was glorious.

While those two road venues were probably the most memorable, there are a few others that I hold closer to my heart.

I used to love travelling on the road into the most hostile environments as a player. The rowdier the crowd, the better the environment. In a sick, twisted way, I used to feed off of the venom spewed from the crowd of the opposing team we were playing during away games. Laramie, Wyoming, and Logan, Utah, are two great examples of this. But nothing was better than going into Rice-Eccles and handing it to the rival Utes in front of their home crowd.

The crowd in Laramie was definitely unique. I’ll never forget visiting Cowboy Stadium on “Family Day” and looking into the stands and seeing grandmas and kid alike chanting, “F@*# Y#% BYU!” over and over again.

Hans Olsen (host on 1280 The Zone) tells the story of how real-life cowboys in the stands would teach their sons to urinate in a sandwich bag and then toss them at BYU players.

We always won when we played in good old Laramie, but Coach Edwards put it best, “I’d rather lose and live in Provo, than win and have to live in Laramie.”

Utah State fans up in Logan weren’t much more gracious. We’d usually face off against them in the cold of night in late fall. The ski coach and gloved student section was almost on top of us. So of course, Aggie fans closest to the BYU player’s bench would heat up pennies with their cigarette lighters until they were red-hot and then they’d attempt to throw them in between our helmets and shoulder pads. We’d keep our helmets tucked tightly to our pads and listen to the hot pennies bounce off our lids. Beating them by 40 or so is usually how we exacted our revenge against the Aggie fans.

With taking two years off to serve a church mission, and redshirting my true sophomore season in 1995, I was lucky enough to have played the Utes at Rice-Eccles (then Rice) Stadium three times during my playing career at BYU. We won all three contests. It was by far my favorite place to play because the Holy War rivalry was so intense throughout the late 90’s. Every game came down to the wire. There was a stretch in the rivalry that the visiting team turned the tables on an annual basis on the home team and came away victorious. I truly believed it was because the visitors were always able to channel the crowd’s negative intensity, and use it against their opponent.

In 1998, the game ended in a missed field goal try by the Utes kicker, Ryan Kaneshiro, as time expired. The crowd went absolutely ballistic. As I jumped into the stands to celebrate with my family, a drunken Utah fan assaulted my father. A few of my teammates (including current Utah Defensive Coordinator, Kalani Sitake) climbed into the stands to enter the fray with me. We laugh about those times to this day.

For all the places I’ve trotted the globe to play football, there is truly no better place to win than in Salt Lake City against the Utes.

These current Cougars need to get back to the dominance we had in Salt Lake City during the 90’s when the rivalry continues in two years. But for now, I’ll settle for these guys to get a big win in the heart of Texas.