Jim Herrmann said he had never dreamed of a professional football career, but through hard work and love of the game, he became a BYU football star and a defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Herrmann was raised on a farm in Hartland, Wisconsin. He said he has been playing sports since he can remember.
He participated in basketball, track and baseball, but football became his favorite. He said his love of football eventually led to him to play for BYU football from 1980 to 1984.
Sports were important to Herrmann’s family, especially his maternal grandfather, John Smith, who was two-year All-American at the University of Pennsylvania.
Inspired by his grandfather, Herrmann continued playing and enjoying football all throughout high school. He never thought much about playing football in college, but when the time came, BYU recruited him.
He signed with BYU as a tight end and defensive end. He redshirted in 1982 and went on to lose only four games during his college football career.
Herrmann was raised as a Catholic and said he had never met a Latter-day Saint. Before coming to BYU, he did not know anything about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and didn’t know what to expect.
“It’s kind of hard (to understand) unless you go there,” he said.
He said he enjoyed the religious environment and campus in general. Growing up, all his friends were drinkers and beer was prominent in his area. Herrmann, however, said he didn’t drink.
“For whatever reason, it just always felt like it was something I didn’t want in my life,” he said.
He was passionate about not drinking and was happy coming to BYU to be surrounded by other non-drinkers.
Describing BYU, Herrmann talked about the religion classes he had to take and how he wanted to do well in them. President Ezra Taft Benson’s son, Reed Benson, was Herrmann’s first religion teacher and Herrmann said he enjoyed taking classes from him.
Herrmann said the BYU atmosphere was “super social” during that time. He loved being with his football team because a lot of them were not members of the Church either and he felt comfortable with them. He said he was glad to have redshirted a year because it gave him another year at BYU.
“I loved BYU; I was having the best time,” he said.
Herrmann and his football team became very close, and football is where he became best friends with Steve Young and Lee Johnson.
The best friends were like-minded, athletically focused and fun, Herrmann said. They bonded because they were all from out of state and had similar interests.
“We hit it off from day one and were inseparable for the next 30 years of my life,” Herrmann said.
Herrmann graduated with a degree in finance from BYU and was drafted into the NFL to play for the Dallas Cowboys in 1985. He was waived by the team and signed as a free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals. After three years of playing professional football, he joined Young at the J. Reuben Clark Law School.
Herrmann and Young have continued to be best friends and now work together at the private equity firm HGGC, formerly Huntsman Gay Global Capital.
“I get to work with my best friend, Steve Young,” Herrmann said. “It couldn’t be better.”
Throughout his life, Herrmann’s friends have spoken highly of him.
“Jim is my best friend and I owe him a great deal. He is naturally empathetic and inquisitive,” Young said.
Young and Herrmann have kept close relationships between their families.
“He is a great man and a great husband and great father,” Young said.
Leslie Herrmann, Jim’s wife, echoed Young.
“He is motivated by being a good father and husband. He wants to lead by example and be honorable, respectful and kind,” she said.
Leslie and Jim married in 1991. They joined the Church later in life when they decided to raise their family in Utah.
“We knew it would be a wonderful way to raise our family — a wonderful Christian influence with a strong family emphasis,” Leslie said.
Jim, Leslie and their oldest son, Cole, were all baptized on the same day. Their other boys, Jake and Luke, were 7 and 4 years old at the time and were baptized later on.
Jim coached all his sons in little league football and coached Luke at Corner Canyon High School in Draper.
Herrmann said the three greatest life lessons that he learned from football are to work hard, have dreams and know that it can happen.
He reflected on his dreams and how he did not really know or think about being a college champion or being drafted into the NFL.
His wife, however, said he has also been motivated to run after his dreams.
“Jim is motivated by accomplishing goals that he has set. He likes a challenge and doesn’t give up easily,” Leslie said.
Herrmann also loves coaching and helping players see the importance of being on a team and the sanctity of the huddle in football. He aims to help his players learn how to get along with others from diverse backgrounds. Herrmann used to coach at Corner Canyon in Draper but now coaches at Skyridge High School in Lehi.
As a coach, Herrmann teaches based on his personal experiences. He said it’s important to understand that “hell is regret” and that people shouldn’t take the opportunities they have for granted.
“Don’t regret the opportunity you have,” he said. “Just don’t regret it because it’s going to end and you’re only going to have one opportunity — take advantage.”