From Irish Gold To Cougar Blue

A devout member of the Catholic faith, Blair Tushaus had a dream of one day playing college football as a member of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Never in his wildest dreams would he have guessed he would instead wear the blue and white uniform of BYU.

BYU was never the dream school for Blair Tushaus while growing up, but that's exactly how things ended up for the center from Notre Dame Preparatory High School. After helping Notre Dame win the 4A state title his junior year, Tushaus committed to Brigham Young University on August 8, 2009 and signed in 2010. Since signing with BYU, he's never looked back.

"I love it here!" Tushaus said. "I mean, did I ever think I would be out here at BYU growing up? No I didn't. I thought I would one day play for Notre Dame, but we get to play them this year so I'm looking forward to playing in that game."

As a devout Catholic, Tushaus has the game against Notre Dame circled on his calendar. He grew up cheering for the Fighting Irish since he was a young boy and dreamed of playing in South Bend one day.

"It's going to be a special game for me," Tushaus said. "I just grew up a Notre Dame fan kind of like a LDS kid growing up a BYU fan. You just look at Notre Dame and all the tradition they have and just go, ‘Wow, I want to go there!' That's kind of how it was for me growing up as a Notre Dame fan. I always wanted to play there."

The dream of playing in South Bend will finally come true, although he'll realize that dream as a BYU Cougar.

"I'm here at BYU now and it's like, ‘Let's take it to them now!'" Tushaus said with a laugh. "Forget about Notre Dame, it's all about BYU now and it's time to beat them."

He doesn't hold any grudges against the Fighting Irish, and his desire to beat his favorite childhood college team isn't born out of resentment for not being recruited to play there. Rather, Tushaus' desire to beat Notre Dame stems from his new-found fandom of BYU.

"I just want to say, you know, I wouldn't trade this experience I'm having here at BYU for the world," Tushaus said in a solemn voice. "The experiences I'm having here have exceeded my expectations and I wouldn't trade them for anything. The brotherhood of guys we have here is special. We say, ‘Band of Brothers' and, you know, we can put that on our shirts all we want, but for it to really be that way is special."

Being Catholic, it would be easy for a player like Tushaus to feel different or perhaps an outsider at the private LDS institution, but that is not the case.

"We really do have each other's backs and I just feel like I can go to anybody here," said Tushaus. "They don't think twice about me not being Mormon. Everyone is like, ‘I have his back' and just having that from all the guys really means a lot to me."

In fact, Tushaus loves the fact, and even thinks it's cool, to be Catholic at BYU. He has a great relationship with his teammates that's open and fun.

"Oh, of course!" he said while laughing. "I mean, it's a lot of fun being here because I am Catholic. It's funny, and sure, you get your jokes from time to time, but I'll give them hard times and make jokes right back. I've got my own jokes, and I'm not going to tell you any of them, but it's a lot of fun. Everything is more about having fun and giving support with who we are in a spirit of brotherhood rather than a focus on why we're different. It's just a lot of fun and I love it."

Tushaus does struggle a bit however with one BYU and LDS related subject, but that's to be expected.

"Well, I do struggle with my Book of Mormon classes," Tushaus said with a chuckle. "It's a hard class so if there is anybody out there that can help me I live at…I'm kidding! But, yeah, the Book of Mormon classes I have to take and learn and it's been tough at times. I didn't grow up learning this stuff like the other guys did!"

On a more personal side, Tushaus discovered that the support network he has at BYU extends far beyond the football field and into just about every facet of his life. Whether personal or spiritual, Tushaus fully believes he has an entire team and coaching staff ready to stand beside him to tackle any challenge or problem he may face in his life.

"You know, it's not just Coach Mendenhall that really wants me to live by my religious standards, it's my teammates that help me grow spiritually," Tushaus said. "Being around Scottsdale, Arizona, there are a lot of good people, but coming here people are more spiritual and they help me when I make mistakes. It just all goes back to that brotherhood and support. If I'm having a bad day, Riley [Nelson] has my back and he'll come up to me and say, ‘Hey bro, you're good.'

"And it's not just always about football. If I have family or personal problems I can go talk to any of the coaches without feeling, you know, awkward or uncomfortable."

The comfort, trust and level of support Tushaus has received from an involved coaching staff has quickly erased all fear and concerns that might cause a reluctant or cautious relationship.

"Oh definitely and without a doubt," he said. "When I was being recruited here it was about the faith, and Bronco always says he cares for us as individuals. When I was being recruited elsewhere, it was always about, ‘Let's win the Pac-12' or ‘Let's go out and win this!' which was great and you want to do those things.

"When I was being recruited here it was about, ‘Hey let's go out and do those things, but let's do those things while we grow as individuals.' I thought that was pretty unique, but to actually be here and see that it wasn't just talk, but an actual part of the program, is really amazing."

In reflection, knowing what he knows about BYU, having experienced it firsthand despite growing up a Fighting Irish fan, Tushaus would pick BYU all over again if he had the chance.

"I would of course choose BYU, without a doubt," Tushaus quickly said. "The only thing is, I probably would have committed sooner because now I know. At first I was kind of like, ‘I don't know, it sounds too good and I might have to think about it.' It turned out to be the right choice.

"It's funny because people were like, ‘Oh, I bet your parents were totally against it' and like, ‘Oh you can't go to that Mormon school.' It ended up being my dad who sat me down and said, ‘This really is such a great place. I don't want you to miss an opportunity at BYU.' I trust my dad and it was kind of that leap of faith and it worked out. If I had to choose between BYU and Notre Dame, I would choose BYU all over again. I couldn't be happier."

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