Quarterback Cade Fennegan throws a pass during practice in fall 2021. (BYU Photo)

‘All the world’s a stage’ — Cade Fennegan dazzles as a quarterback and actor

Most athletes use hard, heavy rock or rap music to hype themselves up before taking the field. Virginia Tech has its iconic “Enter Sandman” entrance, and Wisconsin kicks off the fourth quarter with a rowdy dose of “Jump Around.”

What about Cade Fennegan, BYU’s newest horse in the quarterback derby?

“Frank Sinatra,” Fennegan said.

“Before games, you have enough adrenaline and emotion as is, and especially at the quarterback position, you’ve got to keep your mind right. You’ve go to stay in control and stay loose…Frank Sinatra’s my go-to.”

Fond of Sinatra, “Hamilton” and other show tunes, Fennegan has a deep love of the arts, even tapping into BYU Vocal Point and “Les Mis” for his pregame playlist on occasion.

“It’s football, it’s supposed to be fun,” Fennegan said. “If you let it get too hype and you get too anxious about it, it’s tough to play like that.”

Fennegan was a late transfer to BYU’s program last spring, spending the 2021 campaign leading the Cougar scout team following a season at Boise State and mission to Argentina.

Outside of football, Fennegan is a theater major, perfecting his charismatic acting chops in order to wow audiences and help tell stories. While diving into defensive schemes watching film in the quarterback room, Fennegan breaks down plot devices and narratives for his script analysis course in the classroom.

“I’ve just grown to love it,” Fennegan said.

Fennegan has long been a dynamic player both on the gridiron and on stage, as his days at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas can attest. After a three-year varsity career accounting for 112 touchdowns and more than 7,000 total yards as the winningest quarterback in school history, Fennegan starred as Harold Hill in Wilson’s spring 2018 production of “The Music Man.”

Cade Fennegan portrays Harold Hill in his high school’s production of “The Music Man” in April 2018. (Photo courtesy of Cade Fennegan)

Eat your heart out, Troy Bolton.

Football games weren’t all that Fennegan won at Wilson. Along with a group of other theater classmates, Fennegan penned a murder mystery that received various honors in a student playwright competition.

“Our director couldn’t be involved at all,” Fennegan said of the competition. “(Our theater group) was a different makeup, we had athletes, cheerleaders, choir kids and theater kids. It was a really fun group.”

Fennegan’s introduction to musical theater came at the age of five when his mother, Amy, signed him up for a youth show choir. As young Fennegan was struggling with anxiety, Amy felt that trying new things would help her son develop more confidence.

“I had a lot of irrational fears and wouldn’t do anything that was the slightest bit outside of my comfort zone,” Fennegan said. “It’s very different from how I am now, and I attribute that change to my mom. Instead of coddling me, she said ‘no, you’re doing anything and everything that’s outside of your comfort zone, and you’re gonna love it.'”

Not only did Fennegan end up loving it, but soon he was singing solos in the choir and learning piano and guitar. A karaoke buff, Fennegan says his songs of choice on the mic include Akon, High School Musical and “anything you can really belt.”

Lessons from the stage have been a great benefit to Fennegan’s quarterbacking ability, saying that “swagger” is a critical element for success in either field.

“As an actor, you can’t be dry, you’ve got to have emotion and that stage presence,” Fennegan said. “The same goes for being a quarterback. You’ve got to be calm under pressure, you can’t get too hype, but you’ve got to have a bit of swagger and know you’re the man and that this is your team, and the guys around you will rally from that. You look at Jaren (Hall), and the guy’s definitely got some swagger.”

With BYU’s spring practice period underway, Fennegan looks to compete for the backup quarterback job and hopefully be the heir apparent to incumbent starter Hall when the time comes. Well acquainted with the spotlight, Fennegan knows the impending move to the Big 12 will be quite the show.

“We’re gonna be in a Power 5 conference, that’s big-time football,” Fennegan said. “We’re ready for it, we’re not joining the conference to be in the middle of the pack or the runt of the litter, we’re competing and we’ll be one of the best teams there.”

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