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BYU-Utah rivalry doesn't keep friends from connecting

By Chad Lewis

Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 24 2010 10:00 p.m. MST

Though college rivals, BYU's Vai Sikahema, left, and Chad Lewis, right, found common bonds with Ute Bryan Rowley.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Editor's note: This is the first installment of a three-part Rivalry Week series from three friends connected by football, faith and the BYU-Utah game. The series consists of excerpts from blogs written by Deseret News bloggers and former BYU football players Chad Lewis (today) and Vai Sikahema (Friday). Bryan Rowley, a former University of Utah star, concludes the series Saturday.

CEDAR HILLS — Bryan Rowley and I grew up together loving BYU football. In fact, when we were in the sixth grade, Bryan got in trouble for attending a BYU game when he was supposed to be baby-sitting his younger siblings. We made some arrangements for someone to watch them and then got on our bikes and rode to the game from Orem. We had a blast.

Everything was great until Bryan got home: The punishment was sitting out the seventh grade tackle football season. That was tough on both of us. I wanted so much for Bryan to play on our team. We ended up being good, but not great, without him. Bryan played the following year and was our star player. From then on, whatever team he was on was successful.

We were in the same grade, but Bryan was the oldest in the class and I was the youngest. He was always there for me when things were tougher for me.

Years later, he reached out to my brother, Mike, his former roommate at the University of Utah, and me, when life got rough for him. We were in a parking lot in St. George preparing for my father's heart surgery the next day when Bryan called from New Jersey and told us he was separated from his wife. They would later divorce, and he had followed her east to stay close to his daughter, Sage.

The phone call was a 911. After Mike talked with Bryan for a minute, he gave the phone to me. I could tell from the tone of Bryan's voice that he was hurting. Bryan asked for help. He was in a strange city and he did not know anyone besides his wife and some of her family. He was isolated. He was in pain and torment.

For a few minutes, nothing else was happening, not my dad's imminent heart surgery, nothing. Bryan was in trouble, and he needed help. A name immediately jumped to mind.

A friend's support

Years earlier, when Bryan was setting school records in the long jump and the sprints at Orem's Lakeridge Junior High School, and hitting 19 home runs for our state championship Little League team coached by his dad, I was just hoping that one day I would grow some muscles and be able to compete on the same level as him.

As a group of friends, we played sports continually. We raced around Orem on our 10-speed bikes and played basketball or football or other sports all the time. One of the great disappointments of my early life was getting cut from our junior high basketball team. I didn't even make it past the first cuts. I remember how Bryan's compassion for me as his friend eased the sting of getting cut. He knew how bad I was hurting and, without faking it, let me know how much he cared about me.

He did the same thing for me when I was cut from the basketball team as a junior and senior at Orem High School. Those were hard times in my life, and Bryan, as the star player on the team, was the first person to help me keep my spirits up. He was at the pinnacle, helping our team win the state football championship as the star running back. I only played on our punt return team. He never acted like I was inferior because I was behind him athletically.

We were best friends, and we pulled for each other big time.

He dominated every sport he played. Our senior year, Bryan was the only real superstar on the football team, and he carried us to the title game.

Separation

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