Teammates from the 1996 BYU Football Team Set to Face Off as Assistant Coaches

At this time 16 years ago, the Brigham Young Cougars were celebrating a win over Texas A&M in the Pigskin Classic that catapulted BYU to a historic 14-1 season. In that game, Dennis Simmons made significant contributions on defense as an outside linebacker. Ben Cahoon was part of the receiving corps.

Simmons was a senior. He had been at BYU since 1992. Cahoon was wearing the royal blue and white for the first time after transferring from Ricks College and redshirting the 1995 season. Simmons was active on defense getting in on several tackles and recording a quarterback hurry. Cahoon made a highlight-reel worthy, diving 33-yard reception that set up a key fourth quarter touchdown.

Although Simmons and Cahoon played on opposite sides of the ball, that doesn’t mean they don’t remember each other. Simmons’ lasting memory of Cahoon as a player came during 7-on-7 exercises. “I remember we were out doing, I think it was 7-on-7,” Simmons explains, “and Steve [Sarkisian] had thrown a post and [Cahoon] freaking dove and caught the ball, and then did a frontward flip all in one motion, and Tim McTyer was like, ‘Nah, that aint fair.’”

Simmons continued, “Ben was one of those silent assassins. He never really spoke much, but his play used to yell.”

Simmons stuck around as a graduate assistant at BYU for Cahoon’s senior year in 1997. After that the two players followed separate roads.

Cahoon went to Canada and over the next 13 years caught more passes than anyone else in Canadian Football League (CFL) history.

Like almost all in the coaching ranks, Simmons began a journey across the country. His first stop was Cornell. In 2000, he found a home at Texas Tech. After serving in several different capacities behind the scenes, Simmons got the job he really wanted in 2008—assistant coach. His assignment was the wide receivers.

When Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach was fired at the end of 2009, Simmons moved on to East Carolina and continued to coach the receivers. After two successful seasons, Leach asked Simmons to join him as he returned to coaching at Washington State, where Simmons would continue to coach the wide receivers.

Cahoon stayed close to the BYU football program practicing with the current players whenever he could to keep his skills sharp in the offseason. Naturally, he gave a few pointers to BYU’s receivers along the way. Coincidentally, when Cahoon was ready to retire from the CFL following the 2010 season, BYU was looking for a wide receivers coach. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall was convinced Cahoon was the man for the job.

Simmons hasn’t been as fortunate to stay closely connected with the BYU football program.

“With what I do every time that there is a reunion or they extend invitations to come back I am usually kind of occupied on those, the same day, so it doesn’t make for plenty of opportunities for me to get back and kind of reflect with my former teammates, which is an unfortunate part of this business,” Simmons explained.

Simmons wasn’t aware that he and Cahoon shared the same job title, but he thinks it is “cool,” and he looks forward to seeing Cahoon pre-game. Simmons also said, “That’s awesome. They couldn’t have found a better person. Ben was a talented guy, but he was even more a better person.”

While their players won’t go head-to-head on the field, the former teammates will be facing off to see whose receiving unit can outplay the other. Neither Cahoon, nor Simmons wants to lose this face off.

Cahoon has the personal accolades as BYU’s leading receiver in 1997 to go along with his stellar CFL stats. Simmons can boast that he has coached a Biletnikoff Award winner, a consensus All-American, a Freshman All-American, and multiple 1,000 yard receivers. Both have proven talents, Cody Hoffman (BYU) and Marquess Wilson (Washington State), leading their receiving corps.

More important than bragging rights, the outcome of this face off may end up being the deciding factor in who wins the game.

You can hear the complete audio of my conversation with Simmons by clicking the play button below.

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