I recently talked to the 1990 Heisman Trophy winner and former Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Ty Detmer. My four objectives when interviewing former players are:
1. Get an update on their life post-BYU;
2. Discuss how much involvement they still have with the BYU football program;
3. Get their opinions about any relevant current BYU football affairs;
4. Give you, the reader, the opportunity to have some of your questions for that player answered.
Twenty years after leaving BYU, Ty seems to be the same down-to-earth guy he was when he first walked on campus. It was truly a pleasure speaking with him.
This was a lengthy interview, so I have broken it down into six sections: Family, Professional Life, BYU, Jake Heaps, Austin Road Trip Recommendations, and Reader Submitted Questions.
Ty Detmer and his wife Kim have four daughters. When asked how he feels about not having a son to continue the family tradition of football excellence, Detmer responded:
“I wouldn't really know what to do with one now. All of [the daughters] like the outdoors and they are athletic and they like to get dirty, but they like to dress up, too. Three of the four like to hunt out on the ranch. The one that doesn't she's the athlete of the group right now, she's our soccer player. She is a sophomore right now. Our oldest is a cheerleader. She will be trying out for the BYU cheer leading squad. They are well rounded girls.”
What do they think about having a Heisman Trophy winner, three-time All-American, and NCAA record holder as a father?
“I think they look at me as a mean dad who won't let them go play with their friends.” He added, “They get a little taste of it here and there, like when we come out for a BYU game, so they think 'maybe you were a pretty good player.' The older daughters remember me as a backup in the NFL. … They kind of see a different side. They see people want your autograph.”
Detmer is currently coaching at St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Austin, Texas. St Andrew's is a small, private school that didn't have much of a football program when Detmer arrived just one year ago. Although Detmer had figured that he would end up coaching at some point, he wasn't planning on coaching now. However, he had a friend who's son attended St. Andrew's and he broached the subject with Ty.
Detmer recalls, “The more I talked to him the more excited I got and started seeing ways that I thought I could help. I … thought it was a great opportunity to go to one of these smaller schools and get your feet wet and see how you like it and figure out what your system will look like. It has been a lot of fun.”
When asked about the expectations for his team in 2011, Detmer explained that he had a really young team in 2010 and this program needs to be built from the ground up. He is coordinating with the junior high that feeds into St. Andrew's to get the junior high on the same page with what Detmer and his staff are doing. While everyone hopes 2011 is better than the winless 2010 season, Detmer is counting on future success with those younger kids that will be coming up in the next few years by bringing them in the right direction.
Regarding any long-term coaching goals, or a career path he might have, Detmer said, “Right now I am enjoying what I am doing. I like the high schools. It gives you a little flexibility. You can still do some things outside of the coaching thing. Once you go up a couple of levels, you are pretty much dialed in full-time. I really enjoy where I am at, and what I am doing, and the people I am working with. … At some point, you start looking at it and wondering 'would I like to coach college?' You know what, I would like to see us turn this program around and headed in the right direction before even starting to think about something like that.”
The right direction is requiring Detmer to stop doing something he was notorious for while a player: practical jokes. He says he hasn't pulled any practical jokes on his assistant coaches or the players. He said he has “too much work to do.” At such a small school, Detmer does double and triple duty functioning as the equipment manager, part-time trainer, and whatever else needs to be done.
Detmer's father Sonny is still coaching high school football in Texas, and is currently at Somerset High School on the south side of San Antonio. Ty's brother Koy is part of Sonny's staff.
Will there be a family face-off: St. Andrew's vs. Somerset?
“No. They are 3A. We are in a little private school conference. We talked about bringing their JV team up for a scrimmage last year, but it didn't work out. Probably won't happen.”
Detmer also runs a hunting business on the side. However, it isn't a fully functioning operation. He does it on his ranch in south Texas, and the intention is not to get rich, rather just pay for the upkeep of the ranch. He relies on word of mouth for business. If you, or someone you know, would be interested in hunting on his ranch, you can send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ty Detmer also spends his time giving back to others. He has organized some events in the past to raise money for the BYU athletics program. He has also helped raise money for family trust funds when his former teammates have suffered untimely deaths. Detmer participates in other people's charity events, such as golf tournaments and dinners, just to name a few.
Detmer explains that former BYU running back Stacey Corley (1987-1990), “talked me into putting my name on the youth football league in Grants, New Mexico, so they have the Detmer Youth Football League. I go out there every summer with some other celebrity type people and we do a fundraiser and football camp for the kids out there and raise some money for equipment and the league out there.”
As a high school coach, Ty can directly influence the recruiting process for his players. How will he approach referring and directing D1 talented players to BYU?
“They have to be the right kind of kid, the right fit for BYU.” Detmer explained, “I am happy to help out kids to go wherever they want to go, and if they are interested in BYU, I have experience there and can fill him in on what it is like, and I know the coaching staff. You don't want to bring someone somewhere they don't want to be or don't fit. It is kind of a tricky situation.”
Ty also told me that Brandon Doman has contacted him in the past to ask him about Texas prospects, pick his brain, and get his feedback.
Besides being leaned on for recruiting help, how much involvement does Detmer have with the football program?
“Not that much. Bronco [Mendenhall] is great when you come into town. He lets you in to the team meeting or attend the position meetings.” Detmer continued, “I am down here, don't get up there very often. I am glad they are going independent, so I can see them on TV a lot more.”
Four months ago, Detmer's name continually surfaced as a possible new BYU assistant football coach. Ty sightings were being reported in Utah. How much was he really involved? Did he apply? Was he interviewed? Did Bronco Mendenhall offer him a position?
Here is what Ty had to say: “You heard the rumors. I never got a call from anyone about participating, so they were all rumors. … You know, with Brandon [Doman] staying and becoming the coordinator and still coaching the quarterbacks … there wasn't an opportunity for a QB job. I know they were looking for a couple of other assistants, but I am really enjoying where I am at. It would have to be the right time at the right place and the right position for me to make a move.”
Does that right time and right place involve Mendenhall offering concessions, like no recruiting area, as Vai Sikahema suggested?
“I think if you are going to do something, you should do it right, and if I could help recruiting, I would jump in both feet and do whatever was asked of me. That's part of the job, so I would want to give my best effort and do whatever was asked of me. That is not something I would go in asking. I don't see myself going in and asking for special provisions, when you are asked to go in and do a job, you want to make sure it is done right and be the best it can be.”
I wasn't surprised by that response. Detmer has never been the kind of player who played with a sense of entitlement, and besides, Bronco Mendenhall frowns on entitlement in his players. Why would he allow it in his assistants?
One of the reasons Detmer's name kept coming up as a possible coaching hire is because he was great at attacking opposing defenses. New offensive coordinator Brandon Doman explained that he and the other offensive coaches would be tweeking the Cougars offense to do just that—better attack the opposition.
When asked about what changes he would make, Detmer explained, “You have to do a good job catering to the players in the program, designing your offense around those guys. It is easy as fans to say 'you should have done this,' or 'you should have done that,' but fans are not around the players to know maybe they can't do that or the personnel is not right to do certain things. You have to cater to what you have, to work with and do the best you can with those guys, and to put them in a position to be successful. If you are not a coach and with those kids every day it is easy to sit there on the sideline and say you shouldn't do this shouldn't do that, but you really have no leg to stand on until you are around those kids everyday. I saw that first hand last year with [St. Andrews]. There were certain things I wanted to do, but couldn't because of the players we had. The fans need to realize the coaches are smart people they have been successful. Robert Anae was successful everywhere he had been, and even at BYU he was successful the first few years. One year there are changes, a new quarterback and inexperienced guys. Fans sit there and ask 'why are we doing this, why aren't we doing what we used to do?' [The coaches] know the team better than anybody, and they are trying to do the best they can with the players that they have.”
So what does Ty Detmer think about Jake Heaps?
“I think He is going to be great. Last year he really came on as the year went along and felt more and more comfortable. I think with Brandon as the quarterback coach and offensive coordinator it will be really good for him. He has all the tools. I think he is probably becoming the leader of that team, the offensive group. Going to look for bigger and better things the next years.”
Ty Detmer was the first BYU quarterback to play significantly as a freshman, but he did it with the benefit of a redshirt year. Could Detmer have started as a true freshman like Heaps did?
“Doubt it,” he said with a chuckle. “The redshirt year was good for me. … It is a big step going from high school to college.”
Detmer had 1,252 yards passing as a freshman and threw 13 touchdowns. These helped him finish with 15,031 yards passing and 121 touchdowns for his career. These are still BYU records, and they stood as NCAA records for many years, as well. Heaps passed for more yards and touchdowns than Detmer did as a freshman. Assuming Heaps plays his full four years of eligibility, he would need to average 4,239 yards passing and 36 touchdown passes each of his last three years to break Detmer's school records. Can Heaps do it?
“Playing for ¾ year, he is going to have as good a shot as anybody. He is going to be a great player, they have some talent around him. I think we will see bigger and better things from him. … He is capable of it. … With a guy like that, put it in his hands and anything can happen. He will have every opportunity to do those things. From what we've seen so far, I think he has all the tools. If he can stay healthy.”
While Heaps has done more than Ty did as a freshman, he hasn't secured a spot as one of the great BYU quarterbacks. Detmer clearly is one of those greats, and he has some advice for Jake on how to join him.
“There are a lot of quarterbacks who aren't considered in that group that did some good things. You have to endear yourself to the fans, they got to appreciate what you are doing and how you are playing, and be passionate for the game and put everything into it. I think the fans rally around that. They appreciate a guy like that.
“Look at Jimmer [Fredette] and what he is doing now with the basketball team. He is doing everything he can to get a win. With the QB there that is what people appreciate—guys who go out there and lay it on the line and do everything they can to get a win.
“It always helps to have a big game in there. … Kind of got to think that's your team somewhere in there. Kind of open people's eyes. There will be plenty of opportunity for Jake to beat some good teams, starting next year. More than anything, it is showing people passion for the game and giving everything you have, and doing everything you have to win it. And playing hard.”
Austin Road Trip Recommendations
With BYU set to play the Texas Longhorns in Austin on September 10, 2011, Ty has some recommendations for those making the trip.
“If you come to Texas you got to have barbeque.” He specifically mentioned The Salt Lick and County Line. They each have two locations in or around Austin. The Salt Lick Driftwood location is CASH ONLY payments and bring your own beverages (B.Y.O.B). You can visit the website for more information: http://www.saltlickbbq.com/. The web address for The County Line Legendary BBQ is http://www.countyline.com/.
After the BBQ, he said you have to get some of the Mexican food. No specific recommendations for the Mexican food, but he did point out that Austin is well known for having lots of good restaurants.
For those arriving for the game early, Ty said his St. Andrew's team would be playing Friday night either at home or at another private school just a mile down the road. I think it would be great if a large group of BYU fans showed up to support Ty and his team. BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL will provide all the details as the date approaches.
Reader Submitted Questions
First, let me thank everyone who submitted questions. As you can tell, some of you had questions that I was already planning to ask. From all those that were submitted, here are the two that I chose.
Q: What was your personal checklist or system for reading defenses before each snap?
TY: “Start with the safety. Where are the safeties? If they are tighter to the line, it normally meant blitz. If one was back it was a single safety, if two were back, they can roll into a single safety, they can play two deep, they can play zone weak. It always started with the safety, where ever they aligned. Tried to get a pre-snap read of what the coverage would be and then the corners. Are they playing up, press coverage, are they off, can we get a quick pass in? Check your linebackers from there. Are they close to the line—potential blitz look? Are they off some in a normal alignment? Start with the safeties and work your way in from there.”
Q: You are offered a position as an offensive coach under Brandon Doman. (You can name the position.) Do you accept?
TY: “Really don't know at this point. It would depend on the situation, what position I would be. I would strongly consider it. If there was a place I was going to come up to coach college football, BYU would definitely be my first choice. Would definitely consider it and look at it and see if it was the right fit.”
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at email@example.com
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