New lineman hopes to Gurney his gridiron opponents

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    By ROMNEY M. STEWART

    BYU’s offensive line has some big holes to fill with the loss of starters Jason Andersen, Matt Cox and Eric Bateman. Howard Gurney is hoping to fill one of those holes.

    Gurney, a 6-foot-7-inch, 315 pound junior from American Fork, is not a small man by anyone’s standards.

    Provo was not his initial destination after graduating from American Fork High School, where he lettered in football, basketball and track. Stop number one was in Ephraim, a small town in central Utah and home of Snow College.

    That fall he played right guard for Snow’s offensive line, earning all-conference honors. The Badgers earned a berth in the Dixie Rotary Bowl, finishing with a 9-2 record and a No. 9 ranking in the nation.

    Southern California was to be the next locale in Gurney’s travels — this time as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the California-San Diego mission.

    “I learned a lot about different cultures. The people were great and it was a good experience for me,” Gurney said.

    Upon his arrival home, Gurney once again found himself in Ephraim playing for coach Keith Uperesa’s squad. It was there that he became reacquainted with his wife-to-be, the former Shannan Louder. Although both had attended the same high school, they had never dated until after he returned home from his mission. They were married in July 1997.

    In his second year at Snow, Gurney played all of the offensive line positions except for center, earning honorable mention All-American honors. He helped lead the Badgers to a win in the Midwest Bowl, a 11-1 finish and a No. 5 national ranking.

    “I have a lot of respect for Snow. It was a lot of fun and the program really helped me to improve my skills and ability,” Gurney said.

    Gurney then faced a big decision. He had to decide whether to attend BYU or the University of Cal-Berkeley. Gurney is a zoology major and liked the academic qualities of both schools, but he decided to become a Cougar due in part to BYU’s excellent football program and emphasis on passing and offense, which was a good thing for an offensive lineman.

    “I felt comfortable coming to BYU and playing for coach Edwards and Chow. They won me over with their charm,” Gurney said.

    Last fall, Gurney broke his kneecap during two-a-days and had two surgeries, forcing him to redshirt. After rehabilitating his knee extensively during the past few months, combined with his lifting workouts, Gurney feels that he will be fully ready to go during spring ball.

    “We had some great athletes who left some big holes to fill, but I think I have the size, foot speed and determination to prove to the coaches that I can play at this level,” Gurney said. “I’m excited to get playing again.”

    While at BYU, Gurney has been influenced by the work ethic and talents of many other players.

    “I want to have the skills like John Tait and the intensity of Joe Wong,” Gurney said.

    Since a young boy, Gurney has enjoyed different sayings and inspirational thoughts. One in particular that he says he has tried to apply to his life says this: “Obstacles are the things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.”

    Next fall, Gurney and the rest of the Cougar football team hopes to keep their eyes on the goal of winning the Western Athletic Conference championship.

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