Dick Harmon: Ty Detmer's name draws great interest as addition to Cougars' coaching staff

Published: Saturday, Dec. 25 2010 10:39 p.m. MST

BYU Heisman winner Ty Detmer runs with the ball.

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Once there was a tiny hint at a football coaching opening at BYU this past week, it was inevitable that Ty Detmer's name would crop up.

It always will.

A sliver of speculation, and Detmer's phone started to ring. Reporters, former teammates and friends from coast to coast wanted to know his thoughts before the BYU football assistant coaching job or jobs (described as one-plus) were posted on BYU's Internet site six days ago.

Detmer is a celebrity who loves his simple life near his hunting ranch outside Reeder, Texas. There, he's been coaching football at St. Andrews Episcopal School, a tiny program with little depth, talent or promise of wins. It's a labor of love, something he does while waiting for fish to bite, ducks to take flight and the deer hunt to fall on the calendar with autumn leaves.

That Ty Detmer would abandon his solitude after a 14-year career in the NFL is anybody's guess. He has plenty of reasons not to, and many arguments for why he should. If Detmer moves closer to coaching beyond St. Andrews, those talks are still days if not weeks from being broached, discussed or debated, if it gets that far at all.

Detmer's name gets bandied about because of who he is. He has spent a lifetime building friendships, none stronger or more binding than those with his teammates and coaches.

Some say Ty Detmer was the perfect teammate. He backs up his play. He is funny and humble, a tease at times, and a master prankster. He never made football life or death but celebrated it as a game you play for fun. He made team meetings a good time, practices entertaining events and film sessions enjoyable if they must be endured.

Technically, to Detmer, the game simply slows down. It is his gift. Instead of devouring game film, he interprets defenses as a simple matter of geometry and physics; there are angles and bodies, and both are set in zone or man coverages, And to defeat those defenses, you keep it away from the other guys in time and space.

Companies want him hanging around their employees to speak and inspire them. Corporations want to abuse his name and fortune and have done so. BYU has already tapped his image to raise money time and time again, and his image has brought them much treasure.

BYU would be foolish not to desire his recruiting profile in a prospect's home, or have him speak in the helmet ear-hole of a confused quarterback on the sidelines. But is that what he wants? And is Bronco Mendenhall even to that point in evaluating his staff for potential changes to where it's even an issue? Mendenhall doesn't return from his vacation to Mexico for another week.

Still, Detmer's appeal remains tangible, regardless if his services are on the sale block.

With Detmer's laid-back Texan twang and Heisman Trophy hardware obtained, he is the Brad Pitt of manly things, a guy of great subtlety. He is the David who killed Goliath when he helped bring the haughty Miami Hurricanes to their knees back in the day. Miami football hasn't been the same.

You'd have to travel across the globe to find a Ty Detmer hater. They don't exist. I met a New Mexico safety last week in Albuquerque who played against Detmer as a Lobo. He looked at it as a badge of honor.

And then there's the matter of coaching. It's a thankless profession filled with intermittent moments of glory and endless second-guessing by media and fans and Internet message board jockeys. Coaching is a time-consuming, stress-building, ego-feeding exercise that usually doesn't last. It tests marriages, sanity, and sobriety of many very strong men.

"Can Ty Detmer really coach?" a person might ask.

It isn't a matter of whether or not he can do it. It is a matter of whether or not he is motivated enough to commit himself to the challenge at the expense of his well-deserved tranquility on his long-awaited Walden's Pond.

Former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Tim Hanshaw shares this anecdote of a day, back in Detmer's day, when he strolled through the team's headquarters and walked past an open door.

"It was an experience I had back in 1998 when Ty spent his year with the 49ers," said Hanshaw.

"While walking past the QBs' meeting room, I observed the following individuals sitting in chairs while Ty was standing at the white board with marker in hand: Steve Young, Greg Knapp, Steve Mariucci, and Marty Morningwig. The amazing thing is that he was not standing up at the white board to be quizzed. Instead, he was in the role of instructor and they were learning from him.

"That mental picture tells a thousand words ... additional evidence that Ty was doing the instruction and Steve and the coaches were doing the learning.

"Mooch and Marty brought Ty to San Francisco after they coached him at Green Bay," Hanshaw said. "Marty brought Ty to Detroit when he became a head coach. Greg brought Ty to Atlanta when he got his first offensive coordinator job under Jim Mora Jr., who was the defensive coordinator with the 49ers when we were there."

The trail Detmer has blazed during his young life has been filled with wonderment, from San Antonio city and Texas state records, NCAA records and trophies to an elevated respect from those found at the highest levels of the game.

That's why, when Ty Detmer's name is mentioned, chatter begins.

And it is very hard to make it end.

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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