"Seriously, it was the biggest rush I've ever had in my life," said cornerback Brandon Howard. "I mean, it's just awesome running out there for the first time. You think you're ready for it, but you're really not. All those screaming fans - it's incredible, just the biggest rush I've ever had in my life."
The significance of running out of the tunnel for the first time isn't lost on the first-year players. The rush, as well the honor and privilege of donning the Cougar uniform for the first time, is indeed something some players have been looking forward to for a long time.
"It's something I've thought a lot about actually," said true freshman Solomone Kafu. "The honor and what it means to wear the BYU uniform is something I've wanted for a long time. So yeah, when I run out there for the first time it's going to be an awesome experience for sure."
"I've thought about it a lot and to be honest, I'll probably get a bit emotional," confessed Braden Brown. "I love BYU, and now to finally have that opportunity to put on that uniform and run out in front of that great crowd, I'm sure it will be something I'll always remember. I've waited for this for a long time."
For players such as Spencer Hafoka, who signed with BYU back in 2005, it's been a long time coming.
"It seems like I've been with BYU forever now," commented Hafoka. "I signed a long time ago, served a mission - which was a huge blessing for me - and now, finally, wow, it's actually here. It's for real now and yeah, I'm very excited to run out there in front of 65,000 fans. It's going to be an incredible experience I'm sure."
Many first-year players have become already familiar with LaVell Edwards Stadium and are well briefed on what goes on during games. Despite that, they realize that it will be a whole lot different this time around entering the game as a member of the team.
"I've been to lots of BYU games, but I'm sure it won't be close to the same thing when I run out of that tunnel," said Justin Sorensen. "I think I'm ready for it, but I'm sure it might be a little overwhelming that first time. I've talked to others on the team and they tell me how exciting that first time is, so I'm anxious about it. It's going to be awesome."
For others who have never even attended a BYU home game, they don't have that good of a reference point but are excited nevertheless. Take O'Neill Chambers, who has played for high school crowds with barely more than 1,000 people in attendance.
"I've never even seen a game here before," said Chambers. "But I've thought about it and I'm just excited. Playing in front of 65,000 people just gives more people the chance to see what I can do. The more the better; I play better in front of big crowds."
True freshman Spencer Hadley comes from a very small high school program in Connell, Washington, where he played in front of small crowds that obviously won't come close to what he'll experience on Saturday.
"I'm sure I'll get some chills for sure," said Hadley about running out of the tunnel for the first time. "But there's a game to be played and that's the chief focus for sure. It's definitely an exciting thought and I'm going to just try hard to stay focused despite what is going on with all that. It will mark a goal I‘ve had for a long time to play for BYU, but it won't mean I've arrived or anything like that. I have more goals to accomplish now that I am part of BYU's team."
Iona Pritchard has talked to several players about the experience and is somewhat prepared for Saturday's spectacle.
"Guys tell me that sure, you've played in front of big crowds in state championship games and all-star games, but it's nothing, not even close to playing at LaVell Edwards Stadium," said Pritchard. "This is it. This is the goal we've all had for a long time: to play for BYU, and to run out on that field for the first time is a privilege and an honor. I don't really know how I'll feel, but I know I'll be very excited. It's going to be awesome for sure, but it's just the beginning."
Indeed, while the rush of running out of that tunnel will be something all those first-year players will remember fondly, they certainly have other memories they want to harvest while at BYU.
"I have a lot of goals for myself," said Hafoka. "It's not enough to just be on the team. They gave us that scholarship for a reason and it wasn't just to get the rush of running out into the stadium. But what Saturday will mark for me as a first-year player is the beginning of great things. This program is the best place where I can accomplish all of my goals. Saturday will be the beginning of those goals and I couldn't be more excited about that."