Yesterday morning, Coach Mendenhall told his players to prepare themselves for the toughest practice of fall camp. A normal Mendenhall practice is no piece of cake, so the team was expecting something extremely grueling.
"Everyone was trying to get them selves mentally prepared for what was to come," said BYU fullback Manase Tonga. "Everyone was like, ‘Oh man, this is going to be tough,' especially since we are kind of winding down towards the end of fall camp."
Coach Mendenhall wanted to send a message to his team. He wanted everyone to think that last Thursday was going to be a day in which there would be a defining point. That on that day, everyone would know that the team has moved from one phase of practice to another.
Already banged up and exhausted, the team was sick of facing each other day in and day out under the rigors of drills and scrimmages. No one knew that better than Coach Mendenhall, who used this insight to set up the perfect ruse.
Just prior to practice the team gathered for a team meeting, Coach Mendenhall told his players that there had been a bit of change in the day's practice schedule.
"Man, we were all just getting ourselves prepared for what was coming," said Tonga. "Then we had our meeting and he sprung a surprise on us with a different practice schedule."
The team first suspected something was up when the first period of Thursday's practice included "Getting on a bus." Fears then gave way to excitement when the team learned that the second through thirteenth periods included nothing more than floating down the Provo River.
"Everybody just jumped up and started cheering," said D-linemen Jan Jorgensen.
"I've never done anything like that before," said Walter Kahaiali'i. "That was my first time every doing something like that, it was fun."
The surprise was a welcome change for a team looking for a break from practice monotony and the ruff and tumble experiences the team faces on the day.
"It was a good change for us," said Temana Paongo. "I think Coach Mendenhall knows everybody is tired of doing the same things and doing those things against the same people over and over again. It was fun because it really helped us to build team unity and stuff like that."
Some of the players gathered together in groups in rubber rafts while others went solo in rubber inner tubes.
"I wanted to get in a tube so I could just sit and float down the river, relax and just look up at the sky," said Temana Paongo. "I just wanted to fall asleep in that tube and just float down the river."
According to fullback Manase Tonga, the tubes were great but the mountain fresh water was a bit cold.
"The tubes were fun but the water was a bit cold," laughed Tonga.
While the team floated down stream, many members of the team got stuck in bushes, hit low laying trees and even popped their inner tubes.
Big Jake Kuresa popped his inner tube along with Ray Feinga who tried to get into a rubber raft full of defensive linemen to no avail. Outside linebacker Chris Bolden stayed close to the shore and had to be rescued by some teammates along with Mosese Foketi who had to be rescued by John Beck and a few other of his offensive counterparts.
As everyone got settled into their rafts and inner tubes and began leisurely floating down stream, the team began singing in chorus the BYU fight song.
"Just the best thing about it was being out doors and being with the team," smiled Temana Paongo. "We were all singing the BYU fight song as we floated down the river. I think a few of the guys fishing along the banks hated us for that because we scared all the fish away."
Click on the following link to hear defensive linemen Jan Jorgensen talk about the experience.
Click on the following link to hear fullback Manase Tonga talk about the river trip.
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