Wesley grateful he's a Cougar

Coming from Diablo Valley College to play football at Brigham Young University, De'Ondre Wesley feels his life has gone from night to day. What has been remarkable about Wesley's experience at BYU is that he's bought into everything that is BYU and has made it his own in just a short period of time.

So what's it been like being in Utah for big ol' De'ondre Wesley? Well, the California native has so far enjoyed his short but whirlwind time at BYU.

"It's been great!" Wesley said. "It's been something different and I've never been a part of an institution or program like this before. It's all family oriented and we are a real team here. I feel like coming out of junior college we were a team, but this is like a real close knit group. I feel like that right there is what really resonates with me playing under Coach Mendenhall."

Prior to committing to BYU, Wesley had paid a visit to both Utah and Arizona State, and was actually committed to Utah at one time.

"I had been to two other schools, and once I got here I felt like this is the right place for me in so many ways. I felt like this is the right place for me academically and for football, this is the right program for me. It's been really good and I've enjoyed my time here."

There was no one specific reason why Wesley chose BYU. Instead, it was a number of factors.

"Man, I just felt like this was the place for me," he said. "I just felt like this was what best fit me with who I am. I could have gone to other schools, but I chose to come here for more reasons than one. This place is just a better fit for me."

Since inking his name on that BYU letter of intent last February, Wesley has since gone through fall camp and has participated in and even started in a few games this season. Going from playing at a small junior college stadium to playing in a packed LaVell Edwards Stadium has been quite the experience for Wesley.

"Oh yeah, oh yeah, playing in front of 65,000 at LaVell Edwards Stadium is unreal," Wesley said with large smile. "The intensity and the place with how fast we run our offense has been crazy. I feel like that was a total shock to me, but once I got that part down I feel like things have come more natural and easier for me to dial in and get stuff done."

So what was going through his mind when his number was called?

"Oh man! It was like, 'Let's go! Let's go!'" said the big 6-foot-7-inch, 330-pound offensive tackle. "My whole thought process was, 'Let's go out there and make plays. Let's make Coach Mendenhall proud, let's make my family proud, and let's show the coaches why they picked me to come here.' That's pretty much what was going through my mind, but other than that it was just pure excitement to go out there and play in front of thousands. That was the best part."

Wesley has been enjoying his experience as a football player at BYU, and has grown very close to the teammates he now calls brothers.

"Man, it's fun, it's fun, and those guys are real competitors," said Wesley. "I love it. They push the offense and the offense pushes them. I feel like it's fun. It's jus pure fun."

As a right offensive tackle whose job is to often take on speedy outside linebackers, Wesley became closer to one specific linebacker who took interest in him. That player who made an effort to help Wesley adjust and feel at home was none other than Spencer Hadley.

"Well, the first time I met Spencer I just felt like he was a really open and honest guy," said Wesley. "When we were out there practicing I just felt like he would just lay it all out there on the line. We just had that little bond, you know? He taught me things and how I could improve on my game. He's been here for four or five years, so he gave me a lot of wisdom coming in as that JUCO kid. It was good. We had that little spark and that bond."

As Wesley continued to practice, he continued to grow. But it wasn't easy. He went from being chewed out by Coach Anae on the first day for not being able to keep pace during conditioning drills to now protecting quarterback Taysom Hill.

Wesley has also grown in areas outside of football.

"Since being here I've grown as an individual," he said with wide eyes a face full of smile. "I've found myself mentally in a whole new different state than I was when I graduated from a junior college. As a student and as a young man I feel like I've grown more as a person overall. It's all about more responsibility and I've learned you have to take it all in stride.

"You know I've learned a lot by coming here. You know, coming here there's always preconceptions about a place and you never know until you try it. I got here with an open mind and it's been really good. I feel like I've learned a lot about the Mormon traditions and, like I said, it's all about the family. You guys are a real close nit group and you all stay close together, so I feel like that reflects well on us."

The coach who first evaluated Wesley and took the time to recruit him is offensive line coach Garett Tujague. Wesley has grown very close to him and has become very fond of his new position coach.

"Man, we have this thing because we both came from junior colleges and we both came out from California," Wesley said with a smile. "As soon as I met the guy I just felt, 'Oh man, he's going to be a good man to play for.' He's a hardnosed guy, a hard-edge guy, and he likes to get the best out of us. I feel like he really cares for us and wants to teach us and get us ready for the next level."

Wesley knows the experiences he's currently enjoying and this new adventure he's been given wouldn't have been possbile if it weren't for BYU and Tujague. When asked what he would like to say to Tujague, Wesley had the following message for his position coach.

"Man, thank you! Thank you! Thank you for the opportunity, for taking the time to check out my film and seeing the potential in me to a good Division I athlete," a reverent Wesley said. "I want to express my thanks to him for who he is and for taking the interest in trying to help me become something better. I want to thank him for pushing me in fall camp, because it was a grind. It was hard. It was one of the hardest experiences I've ever had but it's paid off. It's been a real blessing to be here and I thank him for it."

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