Wide receiver Mitchell Juergens has emerged as a surprise contributor during the Cougars’ 4-0 start. The 5-foot-10-inch, 182-pound Texas native has recorded five catches for 110 yards and a touchdown through the first quarter of the season while averaging 8.7 yards a return as a punt returner. Juergens took some time after practice to answer questions about going from walk-on to emerging star.
Q. Can you describe your journey starting off as a walk-on to becoming a contributor to the team?
It’s been quite the experience. Everybody has a dream to play college football, but coming out of high school I didn’t have any D-1 offers, so walking on was the only option for me. I’ve been taught since I was younger to work as hard as I can and give it my all, and that’s been kind of who I am. I think that’s what’s gotten me here, and from there I’ve been able to become a contributor on the offense.
Q. Why did you choose BYU?
BYU has always been the school for me and my brother. My whole family has gone here, and I was raised a Cougar fan, so it had to be BYU.
Q. As a redshirt sophomore, this is only your second full year on the team. Did you ever imagine you’d have the opportunity to get onto the field and start as quickly as you have?
Coming into spring ball last year, I had the opportunity to run with the one’s, and that continued into fall camp, so I always knew that it was possible. But I couldn’t give up or let up and take anything for granted. So when it kind of became a reality, I was just really proud of where I was and blessed to be given the opportunity.
Q. You appear to have taken on the role vacated by former BYU receiver JD Falslev. Could you describe your role on offense and what specifically you’re trying to accomplish when you’re on the field?
Honestly, the first thing I look to do is complete my assignments. Every play I have a specific assignment, and my goal is to magnify that and just be where I’m supposed to be — make the block I’m supposed to make, and when the time comes to catch or run the ball — then catch it and run as fast as I can. It’s been humbling to be on the offense, and I look at it as just a great blessing to be able to be a contributor, kind of compared to a JD.
Q. What was it like being the understudy of a guy like Falslev? Was there anything specific you learned or were able to pick up from practicing around him?
One thing that I learned from him is, you know, JD and I aren’t the tallest guys, but honestly every single time he played, he played with heart, and you could see it on the field. He was just passionate about football, and it didn’t matter if linebackers and safeties were much bigger than him. So I’ve kind of taken that and just tried to play with my complete heart, leave it all on the field and try to be like JD.
Q. You scored your first career touchdown in the win against Virginia. Walk us through that play — what was going through your head as you made the catch and saw a clear path to the end zone?
I honestly didn’t know what was going through my head when I caught the ball, started running and saw the goal line. I knew I could score, but it didn’t hit me until I was walking back to the sideline, just jogging of the field as 65,000 fans were going crazy that it kind of hit me, “Wow, I just scored.” It was awesome because it’s been a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid to one day score in LaVell Edwards.
Q. What was the process of becoming one of the team’s punt returners?
My brother and I both punt-returned in high school, and I think, kind of being compared to JD, it gave me an advantage to be considered as a punt returner. So ever since fall camp I’ve just been catching punts, and I felt like I was doing pretty well, so they considered me. The thing is there’s so many guys that can punt return, and I trust every single one of them as well, you’ve got Devon (Blackmon) and Keanu (Nelson), and they’ve been playing so well, so whether I’m back there or it’s one of those two, I know that we’ve worked hard and that we’re going to get the job done.
Q. What’s the next step for you as this team tries to reach the next level?
I would say personally just continue to become my best self, and that’s off and on the field. Obviously, it would be to contribute maybe even a little bit more to the offense. I’m just kind of getting thrown into it, and it’s been an awesome experience, but I would love to contribute even more and score some more touchdowns, make some more blocks, things like that and just continue to be a factor on offense.
Q. Fill in the blank. 2014 will be a success for Mitch Juergens if …
The Cougars win.