"Well starting off, I've never had so much fun," said Cameron Jensen struggling to catch his breath. "I mean, this is always what I dreamed it would be. It's the hardest thing we've ever had to go through, but I've never had so much fun seeing everybody on the team work this hard and put so much into it."
To understand what BYU football players are currently experiencing, one might catch an episode of Navy S.E.A.L special forces being trained on the History Channel.
"Oh my gosh! I don't know where he comes up with this stuff what the coaches do," said Jensen. "We've got obstacle courses where we are flipping tires. These are the big monster truck tires and we‘re flipping those, and pulling 300 pound sleds, we're going through bags and we're jogging. We've done a "beep test" like the San Francisco Forty Niners' beep test, and I don't even want to explain that, but there's just so many different and crazy things that I would never think you would have to do during football that he's pulling out on 'Fun Friday' he calls it.
"I mean, after each and every workout you feel like you've accomplished something, and you can go home a say, ‘Wow, I did that today' and, you know, feel good about what I did, and just think, ‘Oh what's he going to put us through tomorrow.' You know, you almost look forward to it knowing that after the workout you're going to be feeling like, ‘Hey, I accomplished something today.' It makes you want to work that much harder. You know you may not be more talented but if someone works that much harder he's going to play, so it just makes you work harder, which is good. It's more competitive that way and it makes you better."
Finding competitive ways to build team unity and strength is part of Coach Mendenhall's vision, and when he said his team would be the best conditioned team in the country, he meant it. Forget the "Stair-Master" infomercials. Coach Mendenhall is out to create his own fitness empire beginning with featuring the revival of an old classic the "Stadium-Master"!
"Another one we were doing is running every stair in the stadium and I remember as that last person got finished the whole team is there cheering him on," said Jensen. "You just feel so good after saying, 'Hey I touched every stair in that stadium" and, as you know, that's a big stadium and you're just dead after wards and you can barely stand up. But it just builds unity in everything and after you just feel a sense of accomplishment and the entire team did it together. Every player touched every step."
From these workouts it appears Mendenhall is accomplishing his goals of molding his offensive and defensive teams into a unified, single unit that has learned to rely upon each other in order to accomplish the many daunting tasks at hand. Jensen feels this approach has helped the entire team come together as one unit rather than two separate teams wearing the same uniform.
"I think we're a lot closer than we were in the past as a unit because everybody on the team, offense and defense, is doing exactly same thing, which we weren't last year or the year before," said Jensen. "There's kind of been two standards set but now there's one standard and everybody is doing the same thing, and it builds unity that way."
Jensen felt that what makes Mendenhall such a great coach is the extreme effort he demands from every member of the team.
"He's just an amazing coach," said Jensen. "The demands he set and the high standard he set are what it takes to be apart of this team. He doesn't settle for anything other than that. You know every day if you don't put forth 110%, he's just going to put somebody else in there to take your job. He's not going to mess around one bit.
"We worked hard before but it's just been a different atmosphere change with coach Mendenhall. You're a lot more accountable and you have to be more disciplined and when he's around you, you want to work much harder. The person next to you and everyone else is working so much harder and you want to be apart of that, and you know he's not going to settle for anything less. You can't take one rep off, you can't take one minute off in the weight room and you can't take one lap off out here, or he's just going to say, ‘Hey, we don't want you here anymore.' With that atmosphere it's changed a lot and it creates equality with the offense and the defense."
As the director of BYU's strength and conditioning program, Coach Jay Omer, along with his staff, is there to ensure every strength and character building drill designed by Coach Mendenhall. Jensen already sees the change in the efforts by the team not only on the practice field but also in the weight room as well.
"Oh yeah there has [been a change]," affirmed Jensen. "It's better. Just in the weight room I‘m looking at the O-linemen and the O-linemen are doing a great job. They're kind of leading out. I mean, just the other day the O-linemen are cleaning in the weight room and everybody is cleaning over 350 pounds! Everybody on the O-line is repping it out and it's an amazing thing to see.
"There's been a big effort change in three areas mainly. Accountability, we always talk about accountability on our team, accountability in the class room and on the football field, to be disciplined. When we are running drills to touch the line and to go through the line and to go all the way and then effort. When you're doing anything, whether it's football, in the weight room or just out here like skele or anything else, he demands 110%. With those three things, that's what he wants."
With BYU's offense now under his command, Coach Mendenhall is breaking in the scoring section of his team by placing them under the same requirements, goals and standards as his defense.
"Looking at the new offense they're putting in, it's exciting," said an enthusiastic Jensen. "Everybody is just so excited with the perspective we're at with the goals and the high bar that's been set on the accountability, discipline and effort that it takes to play on this team, and I just love the people that I'm running right next to because they're putting as much effort into it as I am and I've never had so much fun."
With new offensive coordinator Robert Anae and long time BYU coach Reynolds as the architects in the reconstruction of the old BYU offense in Provo, Jensen can already see a difference in the style of the renew BYU offense.
"I haven't seen too much of course," said Jensen. "We're just doing pass plays in skeli and they're only running a couple plays right now, but it's going to be a lot faster paced. They got a lot more people running routs and it's not as complicated, I don't think, as last year's offense from what I see. There are just people everywhere flying around. There are guys right behind you and there's a guy right in front of you, and I've never had such a hard time trying to figure out where people are because it seems like they're all over the place. It's going to be a fun offense. I tell yah, we have so much talent over there. It's just so much fun to watch them and to see how much potential they have as an offense. It's going to be a fun year for them."
With the new changes to the BYU football program, Cameron Jensen wanted to relay this message to BYU fans all across the country:
"Hey, it's going to be a fun year next year. Tell the fans to come and support and we are all grateful for what they do, and I tell you it's going to be a fun year. We've got a great defense coming back next year. We're learning the system now and it's our third year. Most of these guys have been in it for a couple years. It's going to be a fun year."