Seniors Struggle with Last Home Game

This Saturday many senior Cougar football players will walk out onto LaVell Edwards Stadium for the last time in blue and white. For some of these Cougars, the realization hasn't quite hit them yet, but for others the experience of running out of the tunnel one last time will be an emotional one.

Over the years Cougar fans have watched and cheered these seniors as they went through the good times and struggle through the bad. Yet regardless of the many diverse shouts of praises and criticisms, one thing is certain of Cougar fans: they've been privileged to watch high school football players grow from young boys to men of leadership and character under the care of BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who has once again turned LaVell Edwards Stadium into a special place to play.

"We had a great week of practice so far, and yesterday and today were both excellent days of practice," said outside linebacker David Nixon on Wednesday. "Our guys are getting after it and are practicing with a lot of emotion. Our seniors realize this is our last home game and that place [LaVell Edwards Stadium] is a special place for us.

"I think it's going to be an emotional experience for many of us seniors, knowing we will never have the opportunity to run out of the tunnel again. It's kind of a surreal feeling, but we expect to go 18-0 in three years at home. We don't expect [SDSU] to hang with us, and we expect to go in there and win pretty convincingly."

Nixon signed with BYU in the class of 2003. It was the same class that signed nationally top rated prospects Ofa Mohetau and Brian Soi, neither of which reached this point in their careers at BYU. Nixon, on the other hand, has had an outstanding career at BYU. He has played tough, left his mark, and has had many memorable moments for thousands upon thousands of Cougar fans on that special field at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

"It's going to be a very emotional day for me," said Nixon. "I cannot lie. Obviously people always say it's going to be tough once that time comes, but I never thought that time would really come. It's winding down towards the end of the season and now it's my last game at home and it's a crazy feeling. I haven't really grasped the full magnitude of it yet, but when they announce my name and I run out there one last time, or when I take off my pads one last time, it's going to be very hard for me."

Senior offensive tackle David Oswald knows that BYU football has come a long way since he first joined the program.

"A lot of us seniors were here when we did lose at home," Oswald said. "Now we see the fans coming out in greater numbers and we've had a lot of consecutive sellouts at LaVell Edwards Stadium. It's just a special place to play. I haven't really thought much about running out of the tunnel one last time, but I know it's going to be weird when I finally do. I never thought I would play or even start when I first came here because I was a walk-on. I think it's going to be tough for me knowing that this Saturday is going to be my last game."

Many seniors have tried to ignore the fact that this will be their last home game.

"I've been trying not to think about it too much," said senior safety Kellen Fowler. "It's one of those things where you know that day will come, but you just try not to think about it. I'm sure it's going to be an emotional experience for me, but I think I'll have to try and put all of that behind me and focus on our last home game opponent. I'm sure when the fourth quarter hits, then it will really hit me. It will definitely be a little bit of a difficult experience for me knowing it will be my last game at LaVell Edwards Stadium."

"I've just tried not to think about it too much," said Nixon. "I'm sure it will hit me when I'm standing on the sidelines looking up into the crowd knowing that I'll never have this chance again."

Senior Fui Vakapuna signed in former BYU head coach Gary Crowton's first recruiting class in 2002. It's the same class that signed Curtis Brown, Bryan Kehl, Shawn Nu'a, Daniel Coats, Ben Olson, Scott Young, Chad Barney, Jake Kuresa and Walt Williams. Vakapuna chose BYU over colleges such as Nebraska, Utah, Oregon and Oregon State, and must now face the fact that he will be running out of BYU's tunnel for the last time.

"I'm going to miss running out of that tunnel," said Vakapuna. "I don't know how I'm going to react when I run out of that tunnel one last time. I do know that it's going to be hard for me knowing that I'll never have the chance to represent my family, my faith, my people and my teammates at LaVell Edwards Stadium ever again. It's going to be really hard for me. It's going to be a humbling experience and I don't know how I'm going to react when my name is called one last time."

These and many other seniors on this Cougar team have fought hard and have lived their lives as exemplary role models for younger LDS and non-LDS kids alike. They've worked hard, sacrificed much and have done their best to represent more than just themselves. So to you Cougar fans that have watched them grow over the years, a plea is made. When these Cougar seniors run out onto that hallowed field of LaVell Edwards Stadium one last time, be sure to do one thing: cheer your hearts out with such a resounding conviction that they get the message of thanks. Make it a memorable and special moment for them one last time as they step out onto the field of LaVell Edwards Stadium, because it will be their last.

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