With this year’s football team being fairly young, it makes one wonder what role, or how big a role, the seniors will play.
There are a 18 senior Cougars on this season’s roster. Two of those players, defensive back Travis Uale and linebacker Jameson Frazier, were elected this year’s team captains.
Uale, the lone returning starter to the secondary positions, is under a lot of pressure. He said being a team captain isn’t an easy job, but it’s been an enjoyable experience.
“I kind of wish someone else might have been put in that situation because sometimes I don’t feel like I’m at the capacity to do it, but I love working with our guys and helping them out,” Uale said. “I think I learn more than them. When you teach you learn more, so I guess in that aspect I love it because I get to learn a lot.”
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall also knows being a senior leader is no easy task but said he believes they have more influence than the coaches when it comes to the team’s success.
“It takes courage because they’re leading peers, but they have to say things when things need to be said, do things when things need to be done, and most of the time it’s not very popular, so it takes courage,” he said. “The team usually goes as the senior class goes and that’s the expectation I put on them.”
Although the captains represent the Cougar defense, the offense is in no way lacking in senior leaders.
Among those senior offensive leaders is offensive lineman Matt Reynolds. Reynolds is a three-year starter who has started every game of his college career and is perhaps the core strength of the Cougar line. He is also an Outland Trophy, Lombardi Award and All-America candidate, as well as one of the top linemen in the nation.
Reynolds said every year the seniors play a huge role because the experience and example they bring is important to BYU’s football program. He hopes to be a good leader — on and off the field — throughout this season.
“My goal as a leader is I’ve always tried to be what I’m supposed to be and kind of lead by example,” Reynolds said. “And I’m going to continue that philosophy until I feel like that needs to be changed for the good of the team. We’ve got some really good leaders that are vocal, that are more vocal than I am. … My job is to make sure the team is running the way it needs to and right now we are.”
Another returning starter and leader on the offensive side is running back JJ Di Luigi. Last season Di Luigi was second in total offense and led the team in all rushing categories, as well as receptions, all-purpose yards and touchdowns.
He said it is a senior’s job to always be there for the younger players and especially to show them how to handle this season of independence.
“We’re going to bring experience to the table,” Di Luigi said. “We’re going to be there for the younger guys to lean on and kind of rally behind. This being our last year, all of us seniors, we’re going out strong. We want to win every game and we’re going to play to win every single game. We’re going to go out with more heart and more energy and excitement than we ever have in the past.”