Utah MVP to Walk On at BYU

BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall continues to lure top talent to walk onto the BYU football team. This fall, the walk-on ranks will boast the Utah 5-A MVP in running back Bryan Kariya.

BYU's recruiting class for 2005 did not end on letter of intent day this past spring when BYU inked 18 recruits who will receive scholarships to play football for BYU. Coach Bronco Mendenhall will receive players not included in this class who will come to BYU as preferred walk-ons. One of these players was arguably the most valuable high school football player in the state of Utah from a year ago.

Bryan Kariya is a 6'1", 200-pound LB/RB recruit who will walk on at BYU before serving an LDS mission. Kariya played his high school football at Davis High School in Kaysville, Utah. Kariya had an outstanding career for the Davis Darts which culminated in him being named the Utah 5-A Most Valuable Player during his senior season.

"I rushed for 1,016 yard and 16 touchdowns," said Kariya. "I also had 325 receiving yards and caught 4 passes for touchdowns. I played just on the offensive side during my last year. I've played both offense and defense, but my coach and I felt that it would be best to just play primarily on offense during my senior year and things worked out very well I think."

Kariya was recruited by several junior colleges out of high school, but the major D-I push came from Navy which offered Kariya a scholarship to play fullback. Kariya took an official trip to the Naval Academy and came away very impressed.

"I loved it out there," said Kariya. "I think it was a unique place in that they're a military academy. Just being there was a great opportunity for me and my dad. It was incredible touring Annapolis and the rest of the academy. It would have been a place I'd love to attend and play football for."

But the snag for Kariya came with the 5 year service requirement for all cadets that attend Navy. "I wasn't ready to make that sort of commitment," said Kariya. "I'm already planning on serving a mission and then having to serve 5 years in the Navy wasn't something I was ready for at this point in my life. If it hadn't been for the 5 year commitment, then I very well might have ended up at Navy."

Kariya then turned to BYU. "I'd been in contact with BYU's coaches a lot," said Kariya. "Coaches like Coach Mitchell especially, they were always very upfront with me that they wouldn't have a scholarship for me and I appreciated that."

One of Mendenhall's hallmarks of his coaching career thus far has been how straight-forward he is in his approach, and Kariya readily saw this in his conversations and dealings with Mendenhall and his staff. "He just didn't pull any punches," recalled Kariya. "He didn't drag me a long saying that they might have a scholarship for me and then pull it from me right before LOI day like some coaches might. He told me straight up what my opportunities were at BYU and that I wouldn't have a scholarship early on and I appreciated that. I have a lot of respect for Coach Mendenhall and how he coaches."

Kariya has attended some of BYU's practices and is very impressed with what he sees. "He coaches just like he says he does," Kariya said. "He demands a lot out of his players and they respond to him. I just can't wait to get going to play with and hopefully contribute to the team my first season and then after I get home from my mission."

So the former 5-A State Champion back will report to BYU this coming fall as a preferred walk-on. He will practice with the team for the first year and then leave for an LDS mission after his first semester of college. So what are Kariya's goals regarding football his first year? "I just want to get noticed, to make a name for myself," he responded. "I want them to remember me when I get back. That's all I want. I'm going try my best every single day and hopefully I get noticed."

Kariya is well aware of Mendenhall's fondness of walk-ons and his propensity for playing walk-ons ahead of scholarship players if they show better play-making ability and effort. "Coming to BYU as a walk-on is a great opportunity for me because of Coach Mendenhall and how he does things," said Kariya. "When he tells you that you will play if you show what he requires of you, you just know that he's serious about it and that gets me excited being a walk-on myself."

Kariya will report to BYU as a linebacker/running back recruit with 4.6 speed. Kariya is concentrating primarily on building up his body to where he'll report at BYU at 210-215 pounds. "I'm lifting a lot," said Kariya. "I'm following the workout program they've given me. It mostly involves working on building my lower body strength."

Kariya will report to BYU this coming August on the heels of a planned 2-week trip to Kenya where he will do volunteer work. "I'll have to report to BYU just after I get back from Kenya," said Kariya. "I'm so excited to go there. It's a great opportunity for me to do humanitarian work in a place that is far away from home. I'm very thankful for my opportunities to go to Kenya and then go to BYU and play football while attending school. It's really a dream come true for me."

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