"Football is something we do but it isn't who we are," said BYU center Tom Sorensen. "I think that's important for us to understand. With the school that we represent and being affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for two years a lot of us gave back to our Heavenly Father and to communities around the world as missionaries. When we come back to school to play football, the focus is then turned back towards us where people come out to watch us play football. People come out to cheer us, to watch us practice and to put us in the media spotlight.
"What Coach Mendenhall wants us to know is that we are privileged and that we haven't earned anything. We are able to really look at those people within our community who are truly struggling and don't have the same privileges that we've been given. This really puts things into perspective on what we are really trying to do and what's most important."
Following practice on Thursday, Coach Mendenhall gathered his players around former BYU linebacker Dick Jardine, who played for legendary Coach LaVell Edwards during the late 60s and early 70s. Edwards himself was there to honor his former player. Jardine slowly wheeled himself out onto the practice field in a wheelchair, and was immediately surrounded by a throng of BYU Cougars.
Jardine was paralyzed from a horrific car accident, but vowed he would walk again.
"[Jardine] was paralyzed and broke just about every bone in his body," Sorensen said. "He didn't want to leave the hospital in a wheelchair and did everything that he could and ended up walking out of the hospital."
Following the personal pain, and the rehab that allowed him to walk out of the hospital, Jardine put the prospects of playing football again aside and served a mission.
"[Jardine] went on a mission to Oklahoma," Sorensen said. "He served a full mission and walked everywhere he went."
Unfortunately, Jardine has since physically regressed and is now confined to a wheelchair. However, that hasn't stopped this former Cougar player from giving his all in a spirit that Coach Mendenhall hopes his own players will incorporate within their own lives.
"[Jardine] gives back to the community and really represents everything that we're trying to bring in our own football program," said Sorensen. "Despite his disabilities, he works with the youth and reads to the young kids in the school districts. He really tries to give back."
It had been a long time since Jardine had the opportunity to be out on the practice field among Cougar football players, but because of the Thursday's Heroes program, he was able to address the team and bring closure to his own life.
"He spoke to us more than any other Thursday Hero," said Sorensen. "He [talked about being] able to come out here and once again step out onto the field to kind of come full circle since the last time he did so back in the 60's and 70's. He said he truly feels that now he can walk off the field as a member of the team and close a chapter in his life that he had never finished. We're really happy about that and feel privileged to know him."
Coach Mendenhall, like his players, listened to Jardine speak about the privilege it was for him to be able to address the team. Now you can hear Coach Mendenhall talk about the experience and the Thursday's Heroes program in general.