BYU athletes express gratitude for support, opportunities


Thanksgiving is a time for turkey, family and football. It’s also a time to reflect on what we are thankful for, including BYU athletes.

Ari Davis
Zayne Anderson gets an interception during the game against Portland State. Anderson’s pick was the only turnover of the game. (Ari Davis)

The BYU football team will be finishing its season with a losing record for the first time since 2004. Despite the tough season, members of the coaching staff have found many things to be thankful for.

“I’m grateful for the relationships with these players, I think tough times make strong men,” said assistant head coach Ed Lamb. “To see what some of these guys are going through and the way that they’re responding. I’m (looking) forward to the time they can look back on this time and know that it was a pivotal part of their improvement. I enjoy being around them, seeing them work.”

Players also recognized each other and their coaching staff.

“I’m grateful for football. I’m grateful for the opportunity to play here at BYU and for my coaches giving me opportunities,” said defensive back Zayne Anderson. “I hate losing, but it’s fun every week going out there and playing with my teammates. I’m thankful for my teammates and just everyone inside (the SAB).”

Offensive lineman Thomas Shoaf said he was also grateful to play college football and represent BYU.

“Subtract our record from it, there’s a lot to be grateful for,” Shoaf said. “We have an excellent coaching staff, a coaching staff that loves us. As a team, we’ve gotten closer together through these trials. As an offensive line, we’ve been healthy and we’ve been strong, and we’ve been able to do well.”

Joshua Ellis
Dalton Nixon drives to the basket against Mississippi Valley State. Nixon, despite suffering a bloody nose after taking an elbow to the face, finished the game with eight points and six rebounds. (Josh Ellis)

Men’s basketball has started the season strong with two back-to-back wins. If that’s not enough to be grateful for, forward Dalton Nixon also expressed his gratitude for family.

“I would say I’m grateful for my family,” Nixon said. “It’s been a couple years, just got off the mission, so it’s going to be nice spending some time over the holidays with my family.”

Members of the women’s swim team said they are grateful for their loved ones.

“I am most grateful for the people around me — my coaches, teammates, friends and counselors — who continually support and help me become the best ‘me’ I can be,” said Natalie Bennion, women’s senior swim captain.

“I am grateful for my friends who always make me laugh and push me to be my best,” said swimmer Kelly Hatanaka. “I am also grateful for my family that has always supported me in everything that I do. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to swim for BYU and to represent the school that I love.”

The BYU women’s volleyball team celebrates another point after a kill from senior Cosy Burnett on Nov. 16 in San Francisco. (Savannah Hopkinson)

BYU women’s volleyball is currently ranked No. 9 in the nation. Cosy Burnett, who was married over the summer, expressed her gratitude for her family, health and the opportunity to be at BYU — both as an athlete and a student.

Senior Alohi Robbins-Hardy also expressed what she’s grateful for.

“I’m grateful for the opportunities I have had in my life and just the family and all the unlimited friends I have made up here, especially my extended family up here in Utah — it really makes this place home for me,” Robbins-Hardy said.

Victor Brown and David Ball of the men’s tennis team expressed their gratitude for their faith.

“I’m thankful for my friends and family because they are always there for me in times that I need them,” Brown said. “I’m also thankful for the gospel and for the blessings that I’ve received to study and play tennis for BYU.”

Ball said he, too, has a lot to be grateful for, and he loves this time of year to recognize all that he has.

“I’m grateful for friends and family that seem to make everything better,” Ball said. “I’m grateful for my mission and my faith and for how it motivates me to be a better person every day … I’m grateful to be in a place surrounded by people who share my same values and uplift me. It’s easy to take things for granted, but almost every day, I’m humbled by the thought, ‘How did I get so lucky?'”

Sean Hill was the only BYU men’s tennis player to qualify for the ITA Fall Championships this season, and is thankful for everyday experiences.

“I’m grateful for meeting new people and learning every day,” Hill said. “This has led me to become a better person and teammate.”

Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo
Preston Jenkins swims during a meet on Sept. 8, 2016. Jenkins won the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke at the Intermountain Shootout. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

Preston Jenkins is the men’s senior swim captain and went to the Olympic Trials in 2012 and 2016.

“I’m by far most grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Jenkins said. “Knowing that through him, I can overcome my weaknesses and correct my mistakes gives me strength and joy to make the most out of life. Without the gospel, I’d be lost. Most important to me, it gives me the answers to the why and how of life.”

Rory Linkletter following his race at the BYU Autumn Classic in September. (Savannah Hopkinson)

The men’s cross-country team is currently ranked second in the nation, and Rory Linkletter helped lead the team to the NCAA Championships.

“I’m especially thankful for two things this year,” Linkletter said. “First, Cougar Nation for the love and support for the cross-country team while we take on the nation in Lousiville. Also, for my awesome teammates and coaches for making this season a memorable one.”



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