Dick Harmon: Lifestyle has CU lineman bound for BYU

Published: Thursday, May 10 2007 12:10 a.m. MDT

Steve Fendry says he's willing to give up a year of eligibility to play football at BYU, a place the polar opposite of the famed party scene at the University of Colorado in Boulder where he's spent the past year.

In that regard, Fendry, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end who will be a defensive end at BYU, will go from a place where kegs roll to the most sober campus in America.

"I don't drink. I didn't fit in at Boulder," said Fendry, who is in the process of gaining admittance to BYU in time for fall semester after gaining a release from the CU athletic department.

Fendry, a SuperPrep All-American when team captain on Castle Rock's Douglas County High 2006 state championship team, redshirted his freshman year at Colorado. NCAA rules mandate Fendry sit out another season at BYU for transferring to another Division I school. He will be a sophomore in eligibility when he is allowed to play in 2008.

"BYU came into play because, first, I was looking for a change. I was looking for a significant change in surroundings. Second, it's an added bonus that my girlfriend attends BYU and just finished her senior year. We grew up together."

Fendry said he joined the LDS Church in January. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to attend Colorado. But it wasn't working out."

Sensitive about how his situation will be perceived, Fendry said he has great respect for Colorado's new coaching staff led by former Boise State coach Dan Hawkins. "I don't want to seem to be judgmental about the school or players, but this is something I had to change — for me."

Indeed, Fendry wanted to find dry ground. CU has been embroiled in a public furor over its "party school" reputation before 1997 when a crackdown on off-campus drinking led to a riot. The Princeton Review has ranked CU the No. 1 party school in America, third for marijuana use, No. 4 in hard liquor, 11th in beer drinking and No. 1 for the least amount of time studying.

Some would say, "Hey, where do I sign up?"

Fendry simply said he had to get away.

Once he made his decision, Fendry told several of his coaches. "I think they were shocked," he said.

Hawkins spent an hour with Fendry, agreeing that the staff didn't like the party culture and were trying to change it. "But before I went in," Fendry said, "I had made up my mind. I was leaving."

Fendry committed to CU early, before his senior year at Douglas County. He had offers from CSU, Wyoming and other schools. When the Buffs made a coaching change in 2006, he had Washington call and ask him to de-commit to CU.

At Douglas County, SuperPrep named him the No. 6 tight end in the country. Rivals.com had him the No. 28 tight end nationally. He was a first-team All-Colorado player and team captain his senior year where he was awarded a "black shirt" for never having missed a workout or practice.

As a senior, Fendry caught 37 catches for 571 yards and 14 TDs. He played some defensive end, where he blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. He is also a deep snapper.

"BYU coaches want me to play defensive end," said Fendry, who runs a sub-4.8 for 40 yards and is known for his work ethic in the weight room.

"I'm going from one of the most liberal schools to one of the most conservative," said Fendry. "I'm kind of a moderate."

Fendry said it may look like he's dumping CU because of its losing campaign in 2006. The Buffs finished 2-10 overall and 2-6 in league play. The Cougars went undefeated in Bronco Mendenhall's second season, finishing 11-2 and were ranked. "That's not it at all," he said.

Fendry doesn't know how he'll fit in at BYU. It may not be a perfect fit, but he likes what he's seen so far, including a tour on an unofficial visit two months ago. His meeting with Bronco Mendenhall went well.

"He seemed like a really down-to-Earth guy. When you are getting recruited, it seems like a head coach is willing to say whatever you want to hear to make a sell. That didn't seem like the case at all, and I really appreciated that. He is straight forward."

When is the last time a CU player transferred to BYU?

It may have happened, although I do not recall.

Most the time, folks who go to one would never go to the other.

"I don't want to bad-mouth the players, the team or CU," repeated Fendry. "I'm grateful for the opportunity, but it really wasn't the right fit. I wasn't a partier. I didn't appreciate the atmosphere; it just wasn't me."

In CU's football media guide, Fendry lists his goals beyond college to be a firefighter or an Army Ranger medic. The last time Fendry played football, his high school team went 13-1.

Listening to the guy, he sounds like a Bronco Mendenhall poster boy.

Time will tell the tale.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com