Monday, January 25, 2021

Jimmermania: The Oral History of The Photo

By Gabby Stockard

What can we learn about iconic moments in BYU sports from the people who were actually there in the moment? The Daily Universe is creating a series of oral histories to do just that.

On Jan. 26, 2011, No. 9 BYU Men’s Basketball beat No. 4 San Diego State at the Marriott Center, and Jimmer Fredette cemented his place in BYU history with a dazzling 43 points. Fans stormed the court after the game, and SDSU alumnus Kirk Morrison snapped this photo of Fredette surrounded by Cougar Nation. 

Throughout this story, you will hear from several individuals in this iconic photo, as pointed out above, among others who were in attendance. 


Part I: The Hype

Craig Berrett (BYU fan): Jimmermania was kind of this, I guess a phenomenon. It just kind of took over college basketball. I don’t know how else to explain it. It was just Jimmer Fredette all the time, everywhere in college basketball.

Greg Wrubell (BYU play-by-play broadcaster): This will be my 25th season coming up as a BYU basketball play-by-play broadcaster, and I still have never seen anything like it.

Jordan Whitney (Channel 4 news videographer): It was a crazy time, I’ll tell you that.

Ted Leitner (San Diego State University broadcaster): I don’t know that I’ve seen anything quite like it.

Jeff Rhineer (Fox 13 sports reporter): I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and it’s one of the wildest things I’ve ever experienced as a sports journalist, that’s for sure.

David Eberhard (BYU Marketing Coordinator): That kid was fearless.

Dave Rose (Former BYU Basketball head coach): We used to kind of joke that it was like traveling around with The Beatles because in all the old photos of everywhere The Beatles went there were just crowds and crowds of people cheering and wanting an autograph or any piece of them.

AJ Swartwood (BYU fan): It was insane. The mania nomenclature comes from Beatlemania and is usually associated with a rock star, and it was absolutely like that. It was a moment where that’s all anybody wanted to talk about, not only in Provo but around the country.

Rhineer: His senior year was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was bananas. The student body at BYU just brought 100%. Cougar Nation was just in a frenzy.

Swartwood: You have to roll back to January 2011. There’s this kind of gap in sports coverage, where it’s like, “who’s gonna lead Sports Center?” It’s not college football because that’s done. The NFL was on its two-week break before the Super Bowl, so there’s this window that needed to be filled by somebody, and out of the snow of Provo comes this kid Jimmer in the depths of winter, and everyone’s like, “Oh, dang, this kid can play.”

Wrubell: It was the first-ever top 10 versus top 10 game inside the Marriott Center. BYU came in at nine, San Diego State came in at four. Both teams were undefeated in league-play and San Diego State was one of the two teams undefeated nationally. They were 20-0 and BYU was 19-1, so the (two teams) had won 39 of 40 games combined at that point.

Rose: That was probably the biggest hype of the whole thing: Were we really as good as we thought we were?

Rhineer: This was back in the day when the fans at San Diego State used to wear the missionary white shirts and make fun of the missionaries. So it was kind of a back-and-forth rivalry between the Aztecs and Cougars.

Eberhard: They were posting videos of all of their fans and their student section in white shirts and ties wearing name tags and saying some comments that were not BYU approved. We’ll say it that way. They hated us, and maybe hate is not a good word, but it was a good rivalry. It was a good fight.

Kyle Chilton (Former BYU Men’s Basketball Sports Information Director): Kawhi Leonard was playing for San Diego State. He wasn’t the same Kawhi Leonard he is now, but he was still a pretty big name at the time. So, it was a big matchup, the biggest matchup in the West that year for sure, and one of the biggest in the country.

Kirk Morrison (former NFL player and ESPN CFB broadcaster): I had some friends of mine that were down at Sundance, and so being at Sundance I realized there was also a San Diego State basketball game. I was in the off-season from the NFL and so I went there and had a great time.

Eberhard: This was like David and Goliath. Well, not really David and Goliath because we were both Goliath at that time but this was, you know, like the big bad wolf versus the big good wolf, if you will.

 

Jimmer: I still get talked to about that game every time I see a college basketball or BYU fan. They’re like, “I was at the San Diego State game and waited 10 days to get into that game and it was the best thing ever.”

Wrubell: It was kind of a new phenomenon that people would be camping out for days ahead.

Rose: The policy is the first one in line gets the best seats, and so the kids camp out and the tents started Monday, maybe Sunday night.

Whitney: Students were camping outside with tents just to get into the game and so we were doing lots of news stories at the time. It was just as crazy beforehand and (there were) non-stop stories.

Michael Rowan (BYU fan): Me and my two best friends went super early, as early as we could, and waited in line all day long, all the way up until that night.

Swartwood: I remember it being dark and cold at times, but you would have waited for it in the frozen tundra, which this was. But you felt like you earned it. I specifically remember frozen pizza boxes and doing a little shiver and just kind of talking it over about why this was all going to be worth it in the end.

Jimmer: (I saw) all the kids that were camping out for a week before the game to try to get tickets, and all the media hype and talking to national television stations and ESPN and reporters. A lot of hype goes into it and we tried to block it out as best as we could and try to realize that it’s an important game, but it’s also just one game and not to put too much pressure on yourself.

Wrubell: The setup that led up to (the game), the national attention, the sellout nature, everything was saying it was going to be just a once in a lifetime type game. And it turned out to be that.

Swartwood: Once they open the doors you’re running down the bleachers to get to whatever spot, and you feel the anticipation building. You feel yourself start to defrost and the anticipation starts to build as feeling comes back into your limbs.

Wrubell: Once the crowd filled the building, it was a palpable sense of energy and excitement that lasted the whole night. The building’s atmosphere was incomparable.

Chilton: The students section filled in as soon as they opened the doors, and there was just this noise and buzz throughout the night that gave us goosebumps the whole time.

Berrett: That game was the loudest sporting event I’ve ever been to.

Eberhard: That arena was rocking. You could snap in your ears and you’re not going to hear it. You could yell at your friend and your friends be like, “What?!” It was just so loud in moments where you definitely didn’t want to have your little kids there because it would hurt your ears.

Jimmer: It was electric and it was already packed when I walked out for my warm-up. As soon as you walk into an atmosphere like that, you’re ready to go, you’re ready to play. You’re ready to go out there and don’t have to even warm up. You just want to start the game, so that was a tough warm-up. Forty-five minutes worth of warming up with that type of adrenaline gets you tired right away.

Rose: We’ve got a great student section, one of the best in all of college basketball, and not only because of the size. I mean you get 6,000 students together and things can get pretty rowdy, but they’re really smart and pretty witty kids.

Rowan: We were just going nuts. Everybody had signs. Our family has always been passionate, but I’ve never ever seen so many signs at a game in my life. One sign said “You just got Jimmered.” I had a sign. It said, “Kemba for POY (Player of the Year)? Fredette about it.”

BYU fan Michael Rowan holds up a sign at the BYU-SDSU game that reads, “Kemba for POY? Fredette about it,” referring to Kemba Walker from UConn. Signs like this littered the sell-out crowd at the Marriott Center at the height of Jimmermania. (BYU Photo)

Part II: The Game

Jimmer: The first half of games you’re just trying to feel the other team out. That was the first time we had played them that year. We were trying to get into a rhythm and see what they were going to try to do defensively to me and how they were going to attack.

Rose: San Diego State came out and just jumped all over us. I kind of looked at Jimmer and I said, “Hey, we got to get you going. What can we do?” And he said, “I’m trying to get everybody else involved and get going.” And I said, “It’s OK, That time is over. It’s time for you to go.” I said, “We got to get Jimmer going here or this thing is gonna get out of hand.”

Rose: We went back into the locker room at halftime down one. But we actually felt like we’d just come back from a big deficit.

Wrubell: San Diego State had the lead, 31-30. BYU was playing well, but they still trailed and Jimmer had 20 of the 30 points for BYU.

Rowan: I was super nervous, but excited that we were in the game. I think probably the biggest feeling was just anxiety about what was going to happen.

Jimmer: Most of the time during halftimes I kind of just zoned out. I mean I listen to what’s going on, but I’m focused on trying to get better and I’m focused on what I need to do to help our team win.

Rose: I think he realized that if we were going to win it, he was going to have to be the guy.

Jimmer: I don’t remember much of what Coach said, but what I do know is that I was ready to go once halftime (was over).

Jimmer: We played really well in the second half. Toward the end of the game, we started to pull away with like four or five minutes left. I remember hitting a big shot, a big 3-pointer at one point, and then turning to the crowd and just screaming as loud as I could and yelling at them and getting everyone as hyped as I could.

Whitney: It wasn’t anything surprising, because every game it felt like, “okay he’s going to score 40 points in this game. And no matter what they do, they’re not going to stop him.”

Eberhard: Even those guys in the NBA now are still in awe of this little white kid, you know, a little boy who’s 6 foot 2. He just could shoot the lights out.

Swartwood: At one point Jimmer was getting hot and they were throwing different people at him and then Kawhi on him, and he was at the top of the key on the right side. He hit this crossover step back. Hold on for three. And I held Craig back because you knew it was going down and you knew when it hit people were gonna lose their minds. And splash goes the three, and we’re running up and down the bleachers freaking out.

Chilton: There was this ridiculous shot, but he just kind of forced it up, (from) probably 30 feet away. I remember turning around looking up and there were some reporters and some of my co-workers behind me. We were all just kind of like in awe, and we were supposed to be very calm and more or less impartial. But it was just kind of like, in awe of what he was doing.

 

Rowan: It was just kind of disbelief. Yet at the same time by then it was kind of like normal. So, disbelief yet acknowledgment of just, “this is incredible,” and knowing that I was kind of witnessing history, just living in the moment. I tried to soak in every moment.

Wrubell: He ends up with 43 of 71 total points. So he ended up scoring 61% of BYU’s points.

Leitner: Give Jimmer his 30. Not 43. Give him his 30 and they got a chance to win, but not 43.

Rhineer: It gave the fan base thoughts that, “Oh my goodness, we could be really, really good this year. Possibly a national championship contender.”

Wrubell: He scored the first field goal of the game for BYU. He scored the last field goal of the game for BYU and made a bunch of shots in between. He was also the only BYU player to make a three that night. He made five of them. He had all five for his team. It really was the Jimmer show.

Part III: The Storm

Eberhard: You could definitely feel the emotion of the fans wanting to storm the court. You can see the student section just leaning and posing to jump in and get ready.

Jimmer: All of a sudden the buzzer sounds and then there was just a mass amount of people that are hopping the railings and coming down and trying to congratulate us.

Wrubell: The fact that you’d knocked off a top 10 team as a top 10 team with all the national hype going into it. The buildup was there. And once BYU pulled it off, nothing was planned. It just happened.

Rowan: I can’t think of a word. Jubilation. That sounds a little weird. I don’t think I ever used that word normally, but just pure, pure elation.

Rhineer: There was just a bunch of happy white Mormons that were so excited that they just can’t contain themselves.

Eberhard: Storming the court I feel is a rite of passage for certain games, and it was definitely one of those games where you had the rite of passage.

Chilton: The build-up of Jimmermania, it kind of spilled over onto the court. For the fans, it was just like a rockstar was in the building, and they wanted access to them.

Rhineer: Our main focus was to get shots of the Cougars and especially Jimmer, so we ran out to get them shaking the hands of the Aztec players after the game. But as they were storming the court, it was just chaos. So pretty soon that line of congratulatory handshakes ended.

Rose: I headed over to the San Diego State bench to shake Steve Fisher’s hand and to congratulate the players, but about halfway through the line, I realized, “whoa, whoa, you know we’re going to run out of space here pretty quick.”

Brett Pyne (BYU Football Director of Communications): I actually cut behind. I was on the San Diego State side because that’s where Jimmer would have come after shaking hands and (I wanted) to catch him there before anything got too crazy.

Chilton: I was sitting behind the bench, and I had been looking at my computer, making sure the stats are finalized. And as I was getting up, as I was starting to look up, I saw just people rushing at me. And that was the first of only two times I’ve experienced that. So it was kind of like this, you know, very surprised, a little bit scared.

Berrett: We were like, “We got to get on the court.”  I remember rushing down, like you had to jump down, and then there were some chairs you kind of climb over. And I just remember rushing down there and the place filled up so quick.

Jimmer: I hadn’t experienced that before, where they stormed the court, so I did not expect that at all.

Aaron Rhoades (Former BYU Police): We thought about it, but didn’t think they would because it was early in the season. But it was a big game so you never know.

Rowan: For a moment I was like, “Oh geez I don’t want to get in trouble for this,” but I was like, “I don’t even care this is too big.”

Swartwood: The stakes were too high, but we aren’t going to see something like this again. We got to make it happen. So, that mob mentality sets in and you know you want to be telling this story nine years later, so you got to get out there.

Rhoades: My role was to take care of the whole floor, but that kind of fell apart.

Rhineer: You got those guys standing in the orange vests that are trying to keep everybody out of the arena, but they didn’t stand a chance.

Jimmer: I was just frozen. I didn’t know what to expect. All of a sudden people were coming around and they surrounded us so quickly that I didn’t really have an opportunity to really think about stuff.

Eberhard: I was in the tunnel and so I wasn’t impeded by anything other than my own will to run on the court myself, which I did.

Whitney: My initial reaction was, “Alright I gotta hustle and get in front of them before they get in front of me. I just got to get in there and stay safe get the shot and get out.” Whenever I see that type of thing, it’s like a mob mentality. I’m fearful because when you have that many kids, and they’re all really excited, and as crazy as they are going, and they don’t know what they’re doing. I’m just there and they’re not gonna know if they’re gonna trample over me or not.

Rowan: Me and my two friends, we just ran down there and I’m just running like in circles and jumping up and down with random fans. It’s funny because I had no idea Jimmer was still on the court at the time.

Swartwood: Once you got on the court, it’s a little bit like you’re running like a chicken with their head cut off.

 

Jimmer: At first I was high-fiving people and thinking it was going to be really awesome and exciting. Then all of a sudden I was engulfed by a bunch of these people. They were pulling me and hugging me.

Rhineer: And at this moment, when we passed Brett he had a look on his face like I got to go get Jimmer and he was on his way to go get Jimmer to try to help him to get out of there.

Pyne: We thought, “Okay, we can’t sustain this, we’ve got to move, we can’t stay where we are. We can’t get him where he needs to be. Plan B has to come quickly.”

Rose: Our players were scattered everywhere, and they all kind of found a little space, I think. Most of them were celebrating with the students just having a fun time, a really unique experience.

Eberhard: There were a few players that I think were kind of getting mobbed.

Jimmer: I think some of (my teammates) got out and I think some were on the court. I was worried about myself at that point (and) everyone was kind of on their own.

Rose: He told me, like any 20 year old, “Coach, that was the coolest thing ever! But at one point they wanted to lift me up and I didn’t want them to.” So it was a bit of a panic situation for him.

Chilton: Two students tried to pick Jimmer up. And I kind of pulled one or two of them off of him because I was like, “We still got a bunch of games to play. We don’t want anyone getting hurt here.”

Jimmer: At that point, I was like, “Oh, you know, I should probably get out of here. This is starting to get a little dangerous over here.”

Two BYU fans attempt to lift Jimmer Fredette after storming the court in celebration of the BYU guard’s breakout performance against the SDSU Aztecs. Fredette eventually had to be escorted out by police due to the massive crowd blocking the normal exits. (BYU Photo)

Rhoades: “Get to Jimmer and get him someplace safe.” So I grabbed Jimmer and just put him behind the chairs for the coach and the players. That way we had a barrier between him and the fans.

Chilton: He was supposed to do an interview on the court with the TV people and TV talent.

Pyne: There’s a certain place where we had pre-set on the court to go to do the interviews. Usually after (the game) the coach and the team talk a little bit, but the designated place we had to do the interview was where we were, but then that didn’t end up being able to work.

Jimmer: Once I got behind the scorer’s table I felt secure because no one could get back there. They kind of had the security blocked off. And then I was looking out into the sea of people that were all looking at me and wanted to get to me, which was a feeling that I’d never really felt before.

Morrison: Everybody gravitated to Jimmer, and I think that was probably the most shocking. Everybody ran toward him, and I think that’s what caught my attention to where I whipped out my phone and said, “This is unbelievable.”

Leitner: Even when you lose, moments like that are special. Your team lost but it’s still, “Wow this is college basketball. This is college sports. This is really neat.”

Wrubell: I was as happy as all the fans hitting the floor. We were pretty well protected. And Jimmer was at the other end of the scorer’s table, so most of the crush was headed that way. I know that San Diego State’s radio guy had to deal with the crush more than I did. It was just one of those great moments where you let the crowd take over on the broadcast.

Chilton: I remember the scorer’s table getting pushed and moved because it’s on wheels.

Pyne: The scorer’s table started being moved just by the force of all the fans and the San Diego State broadcasters that were right there said, “You got to help. They’re going to knock us off the air.”

Leitner: When he walked over I looked at him. He looked at me and I gave him a thumbs up. I said, “Wow,” and, “Thank you.”

Rose: I saw Jimmer and I saw him pinned against the table, but I saw some of our people around him and figured they could protect him. I kind of wanted to yell at him and tell him, “Hey! Just stand up on the media table!” I knew he’d have a little bit of space.

Morrison: I think it would have been cool if he would have stood up on the scorer’s table. It would have really been like he was the man.

Jimmer: I felt like I was on top of the world. People were trying to come and just get a piece, to touch your hand or to say “good job” and to show their appreciation, so that was just a special feeling.

Morrison: They looked at him as if he was like a godlike figure. And I didn’t really believe that until I looked at him, like, “Yeah that is true.” I was saying it out loud one day and it was like he was doing things that were really weren’t human.

Swartwood: You felt like you knew Jimmer. He’s this Mormon kid from Glen Falls who’s crossing up these future NBA All-Stars and MVPs and yet you felt like somehow you were just connected to this guy. His success felt like yours in a way.

Rhineer: At the last moment when they were kind of closing in on him, he had nowhere to go, because he was back up against the tables. He kind of had this look on his face like, “This is awesome, but where do I go? I need to go.”

Rhoades: He was just overwhelmed. He really didn’t know what to do. He wanted to be part of it. He wanted to be involved in it. But for his safety, it was time to get him out.

Rose: When I got down to the end I’m walking in the tunnel, I just said, “I hope our security can handle what’s going on out there.”

Rhoades: He wanted to stay and enjoy the crowd, but I just said, “It’s time to get out,” and he was okay with that.

Pyne: We kind of found a route behind the table to get Jimmer out because we couldn’t get him out of the normal way.

Chilton: We took him actually behind the bench. Where the benches are, there’s a tunnel that went behind the court. So, we took him around there and that’s where he met the TV crew.

Part IV: The Photo

Morrison: I’m probably about four or five rows up from the scorer’s table and taking that picture. Every student was trying to celebrate with him and give him a hug. It was unreal, and I know that’s the reason I snapped that picture.

Whitney: I was thinking some photographer was really smart to get a shot from way up above. I would have rather been the one taking a shot from up above instead of being in front getting smashed.

Rhineer: It’s a great shot. I mean, here you have the hero and all of his fans around him. If you see the looks on the eyes of these people, it’s just like, “That is our guy. Here is Jimmer. And he just led us to the promised land.” He was a star, and he delivered at a great moment.

Chilton: He had done something in their minds that was otherworldly that night.

Pyne: You would have no idea that it’s a basketball court. All you can see is people.

Wrubell: It captures the energy of that night really well. You could even see a few portable cameras. Nowadays everyone would have a cell phone in their hand, but you can see a few people trying to capture the moment for themselves there.

Rhoades: In law enforcement if you get your picture in the paper or something like that then you get harassed. They make fun of you and you usually have to buy doughnuts for everybody. And I don’t even like donuts.

Jimmer: I thought it was the coolest picture of all time. It kind of shows exactly what our team and myself went through my senior year. It was the type of notoriety that we had. I became that type of superstar overnight. It just kind of encapsulated everything that went on during that season, and so I thought it was such a cool picture that we have it framed in our house so that we could see it and remember it.

Part V: The Sneak-Out

Rose: That was probably one of the longest waits that we had, trying to get our team back together.

Wrubell: It was probably 15 to 20 minutes before it really began to dissipate. But then, if you’ve ever been to a BYU game, fans are always going to hang around and hang out.

Rowan: I took some pictures with my best friend, took a free throw at the free-throw line and everything.

Berrett: I felt like it was one of those things where we don’t want to leave for whatever reason. Everyone kind of starts dispersing and you’re like, “I want to stay here all night. This is amazing.”

Rose: Those are probably the best memories of my career as a coach. The times in the locker room when we’ve won big games, and everybody was just elated with the outcome. For a few minutes there, all the problems, all the issues, all the management, all the logistics, everything just goes away and you just get a chance to celebrate the outcome.

Jimmer: My life pretty much changed instantly overnight after that game. Normally after a game I would go out to the court and see my family, and just hang out and then walk out the front doors to our car and be able to just leave. But at that point they came back to the locker room and were telling me that I can’t go back out to the floor because there were still thousands of people out there waiting for me.

Rhoades: I waited for him to change and then we waited until the OK was given to walk him out to his car.

Jimmer: They had to tell my girlfriend, Whitney, to go get her car, take it to the loading docks and drive it under the stadium.

Rhoades: I had officers on the outside of the stadium and when the crowd was gone, they radioed me and said, “Hey, he’s clear enough to move.” So we moved out.

Jimmer: They brought me the back way where no one can see me and I went to the car and got in her car, and then went back out the loading docks and left the stadium.

Part VI: Jimmermania

Wrubell: We’d had the big games, but this was kind of the stamp that said, “Nationally this guy’s a superstar, maybe a player of the year, and BYU could be a team a destiny kind of thing.” And so that game really just kind of shot Jimmer and the Cougars into the stratosphere and became the start of a week-long quest to get Jimmer on as many screens as possible. I mean everybody wanted him at that point.

Rowan: I remember eventually getting home and just turning on ESPN because I just wanted to see what they were saying, what the country was saying, about us. I was so excited, so yeah, I didn’t go to bed for a while.

Rhoades: I usually come home and watch the game on TV after. Because during the game I’m mostly watching the crowd and trying to see where the problems are going to be and what we need to do to stay safe and make sure everybody has a good time.

Jimmer: At that point, Twitter had just barely started. Social media was just kind of starting. I didn’t even have a Twitter at the time. And after that game I was like, “I should probably get one.”

 

Morrison: I didn’t think anything of (the photo) and that night I tweeted it out and a lot of people picked it up and asked if they could use the photo, and I’m not a freelance photographer or anything, I was just taking a picture. I had no idea that picture would get so much traction. I was just taking the picture to have a memory for a moment in time of how good of a player not only Jimmer was, but how great of a night that was for BYU Basketball and a heartbreaking loss for my Aztecs.

Jimmer: So I got a Twitter and Kevin Durant and Steve Nash and people like Nelly and superstars, rappers, actors were all tweeting about the game. I didn’t know how many people were watching this game and how many people this game was impacting until after it happened, and literally the whole nation was watching it. People wanted to watch this basketball game, whether they were celebrities, in college, or just the normal sports fan. I was able to get on social media and Twitter and see all these people tweeting me.

Jimmer: That feeling of winning and being on top of the mountain is what you play for as an athlete. So when I was standing behind the scorer’s table and I was looking out at this sea of people, 20,000 people all staring at me and chanting and yelling my name, being able to feel that is why I put in all the work in the summer and why I did all the stuff that I did growing up to be where I was at that moment.

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