The Portuguese Huddle

BYU students come from all 50 States, the District of Columbia and from over 123 different countries throughout the world. They combine to speak nearly 110 different languages. Three out of four students speak a second language and BYU's athletes are hardly an exception to that statistic.

At least 42 members of the BYU football team learned another language as LDS missionaries. That does not include the number that are currently learning a new language in the mission field, nor does it account for the Polynesian players who also speak Tongan, Samoan or Hawaiian.

So how does this serve the football team? Well, John Beck could probably call a play in Portuguese in a huddle three feet from the line of scrimmage, and half the team would understand. Is that enough to give the team an edge though?

Have you ever been in a situation where your language is the minority, and you have no idea what the heck everyone is saying around you? It can be very intimidating, especially if it includes a derisive look and a haughty laugh. Suddenly, you're checking your hair, your teeth, your body odor, or your zipper.

How would you feel if you were lined up against a BYU bruiser, and he looked you in the eye, and with a slight smile and a wink, let loose an authentic Asian aphorism? Okay, he might have asked in Japanese if you read the Book of Mormon lately, but for all you know, it sounded much more obscene and threatening than that.

What would an opponent think if the quarterback stepped up and called and audible in Italian, or if the linebackers and secondary screamed out coverage assignments in Russian? It might be a little disconcerting, right?

Beyond any intimidation factor, there is a more practical connection between language ability and student athletes.

A recent test at Bishop's University concluded that students who were proficient it at least two different tongues had an intelligence quotient about 43% higher than that of single-language students. That bodes well for BYU and its bilingual athletes, especially in light of the following.

The Mountain West Conference recently released its list of conference scholar athletes for 2005-06. These athletes participated in varsity competition for their athletic team and maintained a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5.

Guess who was leading the conference? That's right BYU. And not by a small margin. BYU had 135 qualifying student athletes. Coming in a DISTANT second place was New Mexico (80) followed by Air Force, Colorado State, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV, and Utah all with under 55 qualifying athletes.

BYU was first in the Mountain West Conference for academic honors last year. (31 Academic All-MWC honorees—a whopping 17 more than any other MWC team).

Is it conceited to say that BYU has the smartest team on the Conference? Probably, but there is strength to the claim. As the #1 rated stone cold sober school in the country, students have a lot more time to spend studying than do their counterparts on other campuses.

As BYU's approach to recruiting become increasing selective on the grounds of academics, lifestyle and character, the academic prowess of BYU athletes is sure to increase.


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