SALT LAKE CITY — He wasn't this popular during a short stint in the NFL, but thanks to the creative minds behind the Old Spice commercial, "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like," Isaiah Mustafa was ranked the sixth sexiest man in Hollywood, according to a recent Fox News poll.

His commercial has spawned several spoofs, including one at BYU that has garnered attention not only on campus but on YouTube, where it has had more than 2 million views.

Ironically, the creator of the Old Spice phenomenon is a BYU graduate.

That's right. As No. 3 in the lineup of eight kids, ad man Jason Bagley says his father was more worried about him achieving success than any other of his siblings. After all, he didn't graduate from BYU until he was 27 years old, with a major in advertising and a minor in English.

His father now uses Bagley as an example as he counsels individuals in his various management positions in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that there is always hope.

"My dad has been in church leadership a lot," says Bagley, "and whenever he talks to someone who is worried about their child and if they are going anywhere in life he always tells them about me and that I was the one he was most worried about or being able to figure out what to do with himself."

Once Bagley figured it out, his career went zoom — his most recent smashing success being the aforementioned Old Spice commercial.

"Old Spice wanted to make a push to promote their body wash," he said. "We came up with a strategy that would talk to women as well."

Although technical specifications for the 30-second commercials were difficult, Bagley said very few composite shots were used, and timing had to be perfect.

"If any one thing went wrong we would have to start all over again," he said, adding that it took three full days to achieve a usable take. The first Mustafa spot won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Advertising Festival, which Bagley says is "the highest award they give."

The sensational idea has taken top honors in every contest it has participated, even been nominated for an Emmy, causing Bagley to look back on how he had arrived at this point.

Some thought Bagley had hung around Cougar Land so long that he surely had a master's degree. "My masters was in undergraduate work," he quipped.

"To be honest, I was just trying to find out what the heck to do with my life. It took me a long time to decide on a major. And by the time I decided on my major I had taken every elective imaginable at BYU because I was just doing time trying to figure out what to do. Every job just sounded terrible to me."

Going back to his high school days in Arizona, Bagley says he was in a daze. He described that time: "I was barely able to graduate from high school."

Then how did he get into BYU?

He served an LDS mission in Japan that helped to increase his self-confidence and gave him more self-awareness. "My mission gave me the discipline," he said, "and showed me that I could discipline myself and accomplish things."

Bagley also looks back and recognizes his skills that he had from a very early age, 5 to 6 years old. "My cousins and I would make funny little commercials on a tape deck," he said. "All the way through high school, my friends and I would record skits and little comedy things." He added, "I was obsessed with Saturday Night Live and comedies in general."

He continued in self-effacing mode, "I guess that is a sign that I am a little slow that it took me so long to realize that I should do something with that."

On his mission, he said he continued using his skills, not realizing his talent. "Even on my mission," he said, "when I was in the mission home the rule came down that all missionaries had to wear helmets. The first thing I did was make a video, a ridiculous video that was getting the message out to all the missionaries in a funny way that they had to wear their helmets. And I never once thought that any of this would lead to a career."

Once back in the U.S., he enrolled at Utah Valley Community College, where he pulled down straight A's. Then on to BYU, and after graduation, he remained in Utah, landing his first job in Salt Lake City.

"There wasn't a lot of creative opportunity there," said Bagley, "so I put together a spec book."

That project took a year and a half, but it must have been impressive, because as soon as he submitted it to ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, they called him back immediately. He moved to Portland, where he first worked on the Nike account with numerous athletes and celebrities ranging from Kobe Bryant to LaDainian Tomlinson.

He has since been promoted to creative director for Old Spice and for Electronic Arts.

"There was some residual stuff on Nike that I have been finishing up. In fact we have been nominated for an Emmy on one of those Nike spots. It's called the Human Chain," he said.

And last year he shot a commercial with basketball great LeBron James. Bagley said that although it is great to work with such esteemed actors and sports stars, he's often the brunt of their jokes. He remembered feeling sheepish about sneaking into James' greenroom and being caught only after gathering up an armful of cookies and candies.

"LeBron and his posse appeared out of nowhere," said Bagley, "and I was caught red-handed. But they let me pass by them with only a few laughing gestures."

After six years with Wieden+Kennedy, Bagley says, "my main responsibility now is creative leadership," but he adds, "I will pitch in once in a while on Nike projects."

Bagley lives in Portland with his wife, Jill, and three children — Ruby, 8; Ezra, 4; and Lucile, 2.

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The past few months have been hectic for Bagley. He has been a guest on Portland television shows and a couple of national shows including CNN. But after his struggle to get where he is now, he is grateful. "I have been tremendously blessed and lucky," he said, "I have a lot of fun at my job."

Commercial success

Bagley had two commercials in the 2009 Super Bowl for CareerBuilder.com. For the 2010 Super Bowl he also had two commercials, one for CareerBuilder.com and one for Electronic Arts, a video game.

e-mail: wjewkes@desnews.com