Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Gifford Nielsen, left, and Ty Detmer, right, talk with Gifford Hill and baby Detmer Steffensen, who were named after the BYU football stars.

Gifford Nielsen and Ty Detmer, two former BYU quarterbacks now living in Texas, came back to Provo Saturday to have their number retired (both wore 14) and prove to their wives and kids that people in Utah haven't forgotten their names.

Certainly not Greg Hill's family.

Twenty-nine years ago this December, one year after Nielsen graduated from BYU, Greg Hill and his late wife, Nancy, named their baby boy Gifford.

And this past February, just weeks after Detmer retired from professional football and 16 years since he won BYU's one and only Heisman Trophy, Greg and Nancy's daughter Kira and her husband, Dave Steffensen, named their baby boy Detmer.

When he heard the news this summer about BYU's plans, Hill, a fellow journalist who works for the LDS Church News and is a self-acknowledged Cougar football fanatic, couldn't believe his family's good fortune.

"To think that BYU would choose to honor the same two people on the same day," he marveled.

And to think he's related to both of them.

Well, in a way.


At first, neither mother was wild about the idea of naming a son after a quarterback.

Greg remembers laying the groundwork long before it happened. Shortly after he and Nancy married, he told her he wanted to name their first son after "an athlete with good character." Then they had two girls, Cami and Kelly.

When their first boy came along on Dec. 1, 1978, Gifford "Mr. Clean" Nielsen, by that time a first-year pro with the Houston Oilers, was the pride of Utah. Greg reminded Nancy of what he wanted to do. He wanted to name their boy Gifford. Nancy's only compromise was that his first name be Gregory, after his dad, and his middle name be Gifford — if the kid didn't want to go through life as a Gifford, he'd have a fallback.

The kid, who is now a 6-foot-1, 200-pound policeman for the city of Kaysville, has stuck with Gifford.

"Overall, I've enjoyed the name," said Gifford Hill. "Some people connect it to Frank Gifford or Kathie Lee, but BYU fans usually make a quick connection."

Gifford's nephew, Detmer Steffensen, couldn't comment for this article, on account of the fact he can't talk yet. But the story of how he got his name is strikingly similar to his uncle's.

Growing up in Colorado, Dave Steffensen was an avid BYU fan. Then at 13 he moved to Utah and became certifiable.

To this day he remembers all the words to the Heisman Rap — a

Detmer-for-Heisman promo song from 1990.

"He's crazier than I am," admitted Greg, Dave's father-in-law, not elaborating whether that's a good or bad thing.

When BYU football went into a deep recession a few years ago and Greg couldn't give his season tickets away, "Dave was the only guy who would go with me," he said.

Like his father-in-law, soon after Dave married Kira he started working on her about naming their first boy after a BYU quarterback, in his case, Detmer.

First they had a girl, Allie, then, last Feb. 10, along came a boy. Dave reminded Kira of what he wanted to do.

Like her mom before her, Kira said, "Uhm, uh, well, OK.

"I really couldn't say no," Kira said. "I'm Greg Hill's daughter. I grew up thinking rooting for BYU football was part of the religion."


The Giffords and Detmers got together for a photo at the stadium Saturday. Introductions were simple and sounded like an echo. Gifford, Gifford. Detmer, Detmer.

Ty Detmer noted that he was also named after a famous athlete. He said his father talked his mother into naming him after Ty Cobb the baseball player.

"So I'm kind of in the same boat," he said. "He (Ty Cobb) went all out when he played the game, and I guess my dad appreciated that. What you hope is that you can live up to what your name stands for."

Gifford Nielsen pointed out that his first name is his mother's maiden name. He was named after his grandfather, A.L. Gifford, a lifelong high school band teacher.

"It's really an honor that someone would name their child after you," Nielsen said. "It means you must have had quite a positive influence on them — unless they didn't like their kid."


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.