When I realized he was out there I had a moment of hesitation wondering how I could turn around and go back in without making my about-face obvious.
It was to late.
"Rob! So you goin' to that game today?"
"Hi LaVeer, ya, were all packed. Kids are in the car. I just promised them I would check the dog before we left."
LaVeer went on one of his usual rants about how the team needs to work stronger, be meaner, and have an attitude. In his very strong Southern Utah drawl, he gave me his motivational speech I had heard 20 times already.
"Ya Know! If I was the Coach, Id have those chicken livers out-a bed at 4am to start liftin' weights. Ya gotta get these boys tough. Their getting about 60 thousand in tuition and stuff you know.
"They gotta get tougher, be little mean. None-a-this run a drill in the air-conditioned plane hanger, then take a break while the next group goes.
"Take-em in the snow and make-em do pushups between each drill. They wouldn't get a moments rest with me. Ya-know, they gotta decide how much they want this."
I nodded my head and tried to look interested as I snapped up some dog gifts with my pooper-scooper and dropped them in a garbage can.
"Your right on LaVeer," I said with a weak smile. "So are you headed up too?"
"Naw…" LaVeer answered back. "Supposed to be snowing and real cold up there! Besides, Delmont Ence is singing over to the Tabernacle today and Mariam says we have to go."
"Ah," I thought, "the tough man at least tells the truth."
"Ok, LaVeer. Have fun watching Delmont! I gotta run."
The trip up went pretty quick. I tried to talk my boys into watching some recruit DVD's for the trip up to get them in the mood, but they decided on "Around the World in Eighty Days". We pulled into the TBS tailgate party for a quick cameo and to say hello to a couple people, but had to jet off to the Mall to fulfill my end of the bargain with my wife.
Of course the highlight for my boy's was the pre-game player participation drills. My boy's were mostly interested in the running backs drill with Moa Peaua.
My 4 year old son had been through the drill the 2 prior years. So he was excited and ready to go. I guess I have yet to teach him the concept of a line, because while the small, bashful child in front of him was being encouraged and tutored by his father, my son saw his chance. Dashing past the timid boy in front of him, he grabbed the ball from Nathan Meikle and darted toward Moa Peaua.
With all the power he could muster, he slammed in to the practice pad that Peaua was holding with the force of a….well…. a four year old.
The 6 foot 300lb Moa flew backwards with a grunt. To add insult to injury, my boy raised his arms in victory while standing over his victim's body and gloated while players and fans cheered him on.
Never could I imagine the thrill this was for my three boys to be treated as peers and teammates to their heroes on the turf at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
It was a cold, windy spring day, and was forecast to be worse. So to see what looked like over 10,000 fans buckled down to watch the practice seemed pretty good. Heavy coats, a lot of blankets and hot chocolate made it bearable for my kids.
Following the game, I would have thought for sure that the kids would want to get going to the hotel. But they weren't done yet. They had their new jerseys, new football and new permanent markers ready to get autographs.
On the field, hundreds of people crowded the players and coaches trying to get a glimpse and a signature.
Most impressive was when we got in line for Bronco's autograph. Never had I seen such a public figure so personable and interested in each person, patiently asking their names, looking them in the eye and sincerely thanking them for their support. His graciousness and sincerity was astonishing.
The line for Curtis Brown was huge and unorganized. I sat back and watched as my 4 year old tried gallantly to establish himself in a moving part of the large circle of fans that surrounded Brown. Just when I was about to take his hand and try to interest him in another player, the two Gooch brothers appeared out of nowhere.
Almost like 2 of the 3 Nephites, they understood his nearly impossible plight and picked him up.
"Do you need Curtis Brown to sign your shirt?" Quinn asked.
With his bottom lip drooping he shook his head yes.
"Lets get you in there," David said.
With that, they whisked him to Curtis' side and got his shirt signed. Wow. Now that was cool.
Several players stayed on the field greeting people and signing autographs for at least a good hour after the game and maybe longer because there were still large gatherings around players when we left.
I was feeling a little down that their weren't any touchdowns scored by the offense after the game, but in the ride up the Marriott South Tower elevator that night, a bell hop assuming my blue and white clad family complete with noisemakers, foam #1 fingers an autographed football and a lot of blankets were at a football game, asked who won the game.
My 8 year old said, "BYU did, but they also lost, 'cause they played themselves."
It shocked me to my senses and made me realize that for every bit of discouragement that I feel about the offense, I should be feeling an equal amount of satisfaction in our defense. How would I have been feeling about our defense if our offense had put up 35 points? I concluded that the score didn't mean that much, and that the most important thing to consider was the attitude and effort of the players. That, I would give and A.
When we got to the room, I thought of LaVeer for a moment. Sitting in his comfortable pew, listening to Delmont sign hymns… He'll never understand what he missed.