A Family Affair?

During his sophomore year, Aaron Wagner started against top ranked teams the likes of USC, Boise State, University of Utah and Notre Dame. Now a junior, Wagner has to battle for a chance to see playing time on the first team defense.

"I don't know, it's been a tough time for me so far from obviously not living to the expectations I have for myself," said Aaron Wagner. "I can't really control where I'm at and how much playing time I get. What I can control is coming out here and working hard everyday, and when I get the opportunity to make plays just go and make plays."

For the season opener against Boston College, Wagner thought he would have been in the linebacker rotation more than he was, so doing his best to not reign in his competitive spirit he simply asked the coaches for a chance to show his linebacker mentality someplace else.

"After the first game with Boston College, I didn't play as much as I had hoped to so I told coaches that I want to play more on special teams for now, so on the kickoff I went and made a tackle on kickoff and that's all I can really do is just keep trying my best," said Wagner. "I got to get my assignments down a little more and get the coaches confidence back in me, and I think the more they can trust me the more I'll play because they know my athletic abilities."

Wagner has used the fact that he is no longer starting as motivational for getting back into the starting position or into more of a rotation with the first string unit. He knows this corps of BYU linebackers runs very deep and is possibly one of the most talented groups of athletes currently on the team.

"There are six or seven guys on this team that could start right now and the coaches know that," Wagner said. "That's why Coach Mendenhall has been saying from day one that this is the most loaded position on our team, the most depth and where the most athleticism is at, and that's the truth and everybody knows it. I mean, every day it's a battle. The depth chart changes every day. You see different guys out there and you just got to be ready for your opportunity and make the most of it when you get it and make some plays."

One player Wagner is impressed to see playing well is Justin Luettgerodt. After suffering several knee surgeries, the talented linebacker found himself in an extended off-season.

"These guys are playing really well," said Wagner. "I mean, everybody is surprised to see the way Justin has come out and played coming off, like fifteen knees surgeries or what ever he's had, but he got his weight down from over 255 last year to playing at 215 this year. He's just constantly flying around and he has a motor like I haven't seen in a guy in a long time. Obviously Cameron [Jensen] is just that steady rock in the middle, and Paul [Walkenhorst] has battled through all the things he's come through and he's a senior with experience that will do what the coaches want him to do. He's tough up front and they like him on the line."

With Luettgerodt taking over the right outside linebacker spot, Wagner was going to man the left side with Cameron Jensen holding down the middle. However over the summer there must have been a cosmic disturbance that resulted in a very interesting situation for a linebacker who is looking to get his starting position back.

During fall camp, senior outside linebacker Paul Walkenhorst beat out Wagner as a starter on the first team defense. Here is where the interesting part of the story begins.

"It doesn't create any ill feeling towards one another off the field or anything," said Wagner. "It does create a kind of personal support and we're good friends, but when you're competing against somebody I guess you can get kind of critical of the way they play on the field with this and that because you want to see yourself out there. Really what it comes down to is it doesn't matter who you are. If you're a competitor and you know you're a good player you think you're the best player, and that's what makes it tough. There's kind of a balance there with the situation."

The reason why Wagner is now engaged in a balancing act between keeping his thoughts, criticisms and feelings in perspective towards a player who beat him out, with a personal goal in mind of taking that position back, while showing kindness and friendship is both complicated, somewhat comical, and yet very simplistic.

Wagner is now engaged to the sister in law of the player who took his starting position.

"It motivates me but it's a tough situation between me and Paul Walkenhorst right now because we're soon to be brothers-in-law," said a laughing Aaron Wagner. "Yup, I'm engaged to be married to Paul Walkenhorst's wife's little sister [Candice Dustin] on January 7th in the Las Vegas temple.

"It makes it tough because we're competing for the same position. I'm excited about that but it makes it a sensitive situation because at the beginning of the season he was slotted to play on the right side and then coaches moved him over to the left at the beginning of camp, and now we're competing for the same position as soon-to-be brother-in-laws."

So what it has come down to is Paul Walkenhorst took Aaron Wagner's starting position on the football field but introduced him to his current fiancé and future eternal companion. If you're a single junior linebacker that sounds like a good trade.

"He's a good player and he's gotten himself back to his old form and he's done well for BYU. I think the coaches are really satisfied," Wagner said. "Life outside of football is absolutely perfect, and football is going. It's not perfect but I'm doing the best I can."

So how did such a circumstance that could lead to interesting family reunions unfold between two hard-nosed, highly competitive gridiron warriors fighting for the same starting position come about?

"Well I served my mission in Las Vegas and I never served in their area or anything and never knew her, but I went down with a couple of mission buddies last year to visit some of our converts," said Wagner. "Paul was getting married that same weekend so he invited us to the reception. So we stopped by Paul's reception and gave him a gift and shook some hands and stuff, but he had been telling me about his sister-in-law for awhile, so he rushed out of the line to get his sister in law to introduce me to her and we just hit it off right from the get go. She's from Las Vegas which is awesome too because we get to be married in the same temple in an area where I served my mission in and I love Las Vegas. It's been really good and I'm excited and I love her to death."


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