Walk-ons Reinforce Cougar OL

A lack of depth on the offensive line during spring practice severely limited the number of reps the team could take. Cougar coaches set out to address the personnel shortage this off-season by bringing on several beefy walk-ons.

Every year, the fall camp roster is dotted with unfamiliar names that never appeared on any signing day list. The unknown additions are usually walk-ons who the coaches invite to fill specific needs on the team. Two such players in 2006 are offensive linemen John Barrett and Tommy Nelson. They both come to BYU after serving LDS missions, but they pursued different paths to the team.

Barrett played at Timpview High School in Provo, Utah along with Brian Soi, Dallas Reynolds and Mike Affleck. He always dreamed of playing for the university in his back yard.

"I've grown up a BYU fan my whole life," said the 6-foot-1, 325-pound Barrett. "I was recruited out of high school, but I never really paid them any attention because I knew I was a Cougar at heart. I think with the new coaches, I fit more into their scheme than I did before my mission."

Nelson, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with BYU while in high school.

"My parents were both Wyoming graduates," said Nelson. "BYU contacted me throughout high school, but I wasn't interested. I kind of blew them off. I never really wanted to go to Wyoming, either. I went on a visit there and quickly ruled them out—too cold, too small, and too many hicks!"

Even after his mission, Nelson did not go directly to BYU. He considered several in state programs earlier this year.

"I got home from my mission and went and played spring ball with Utah State for a while," said Nelson. "Then I went back to Dixie State to check things out and decided I didn't want to play anymore."

A hopeful and determined father would not allow the 6-foot-5, 280-pound tackle to pack it in, however.

"My dad sent a letter to both the University of Utah and BYU, and they both contacted me back and offered me a spot on the team," said Nelson. "My mission changed my perspective. Once I got home, I realized that BYU was the place for me because of the atmosphere. I really like it here."

So why did Nelson choose BYU over Utah?

"Utah just wasn't cool enough," Nelson explained.

Barrett took a more direct route to Provo. He wasted no time in pursuing his childhood dream.

"It's kind of funny how it worked out," said Barrett. "I just got home from my mission, and almost the next day, I walked straight into the coaches' office and told them I wanted to play."

Coaches told Barrett that he had to get accepted at the school first and then they could work from there. Barrett did just that.

"I got enrolled, and now I'm going to be practicing with the team this fall," said Barrett, who bench presses over 300 pounds. "I've been waiting around because I got on the team too late for spring ball, and then I started lifting in the summer but hadn't signed a national letter of intent with BYU, so I've just been eager to get rolling."

Nelson is also ready to begin fall practice. His enthusiasm grows each time he talks with Cougar coaches.

"I've been talking to Paul Tidwell; he's such a great guy," said Nelson. "He makes me excited to go play football again."

Barrett cannot wait to suit up in BYU blue. As a life-long Cougar fan he knows where the program has been, and he knows where it is going.

"I'm so excited for this season," said Barrett. "It will be a great year for BYU football."

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