Friday was Alumni Day for the football program, and the coaching staff set up a dinner for the hundreds of former Cougars in attendance.
"I haven't checked the numbers yet," Mendenhall said. "We were expecting over 800 for dinner. That's what we planned. I think last year we were in the 700 range and the first year might have been around 300. So I think it's growing and what's encouraging to me is many that are coming haven't been before. And so even though there are more numbers, we're getting our program exposed to a lot of different former players as well, which is a neat experience."
"I think more than anything, and especially with Coach Mendenhall, [Alumni Day] has tried to instill more passion for our tradition and more respect for our tradition," said Coach Doman. "Today he gave a really good talk to our team that we don't all deserve to be here, but rather it's a privilege to be a part of this place. It's a privilege to be apart of the tradition of this school. I think with having Coach Edwards around and all these alumni around, he's constantly reminding us through videos, and having former players talk to the team reminds us first how special this place really is. Second, it helps to show the current players what the after-product of being a football player here at BYU is."
"You know, there are so many benefits," Mendenhall said regarding reaching out to former players. "When I was an assistant coach and I arrived at BYU, the most striking thing I noticed was where were all the former players? I didn't know where they were and I believe there was a disconnect in that they didn't feel welcomed nor maybe didn't want to be here. When you have a tradition like BYU has, here I was thinking, ‘BYU knows winning. These players could teach and instruct and help role-model for our current team.'"
Besides being role models to the current players on the team, Coach Mendenhall and his staff feel former players are also able to become better educated about the ideals and goals of the program to then become a sort of ambassador for what the program is and stands for.
"I think that teaching is helpful, but I also think that when a player comes back and gets a chance to hear directly from me what's going on in the program and how we're doing things, they have a greater understanding and are able to go off to the different communities they live in and help educate," Mendenhall said. "They don't have half-truths or mistruth because they were here and heard it, and then they usually act on our behalf in terms of letting us know if there are good players close by, inviting kids to come to camp, and just basically goodwill. Our support then reaches out rather than it being centralized. The Church is obviously worldwide. BYU football, there are players everywhere, so it's a great link for us once we send them out and it kind of rekindles the flame."
Some of those role models in attendance during Friday's activities included former Philadelphia Eagles Chad Lewis and Reno Mahe. Also present was two-time Super Bowl champion defensive lineman Chris Hoke of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Yeah, I think the most notable on this particular trip is Chris Hoke and the players are really anxious to have him back, especially with the Super Bowl experience to talk about," said Mendenhall. "I think they respect the route he's taken. He wasn't drafted and I think they see him as one of us, meaning that there might not be superior talent but enough talent with great heart and work ethic and a guy that is passionate to be at BYU."
Chris Hoke enjoyed being back on the Cougar sidelines with his family and talks about the current Cougar program, Coach Mendenhall, the NFL and the Super Bowl in the interview below.
Practice Notes and Updates
Coach Mendenhall gave the press a few injury updates following practice.
"Scott Johnson had a hamstring tweak that I didn't know about. Nick Alletto, they expect him to be back in six weeks, which is really favorable. We've had the stomach flu going through the team, so Shawn Doman and Jordan Atkinson were the next to take a hit from that. It's been passed around and they were too sick to practice."
Brandon Bradley will also miss the rest of spring practice according to Coach Mendenhall: "Most likely [he will miss the rest of spring]. It's to the point where what will he benefit from the next three practices? For the setback that it would cause or the risk is just too great, so most likely that is what will happen."
Only at BYU
There have been a few additions to the Cougar football family on Friday.
"Yup, there was a marriage," said Mendenhall with a smile. "Terence Brown was married this morning, and Jason Speredon [and his wife] had a baby girl last night, and so we were down two offensive lineman yesterday and today. Only at BYU would there be marriages and babies born during spring practice."