PROVO — When it comes to BYU's independent future, a distinguished group of Cougar football legends assembled for a Media Day roundtable shared both a sense of excitement and a realistic grasp on challenges ahead.
"It's exciting," ex-BYU center and NFL standout lineman Trevor Matich said, echoing others. "But it's a little terrifying."
Another thing the really old-school Cougs — namely LaVell Edwards, Steve Young, Ty Detmer and Matich — shared in common?
Edwards, BYU's legendary former coach, fired the first humorous salvo at the expense of his Heisman Trophy quarterback while explaining why Detmer, seated next to him, might not have been recruited to the Y. in the Internet era.
"Well," Edwards said, "he wasn't quite as large as we thought he was."
And the one-liners only escalated from there during the hour-long show, which was broadcast live on ESPN3 and by multiple BYU outlets.
Young, who joined the group via telecast from Palo Alto, Calif., teased the diminutive Detmer for being 5-foot-6 and for having legs as skinny as the poles on sideline down markers.
In return, Detmer jokingly said he was glad Young was married. After all, Detmer just dropped off a freshman daughter at BYU and he knew all about Young's bachelor reputation (that being dating younger women).
After Young inquired if Edwards' golf cart was still running outside, the coach asked if the ESPN personality has been golfing. Young reminded Edwards that he has four kids under the age of 10.
"Problem is," Edwards replied, "by the time you have them raised you'll be too old to golf."
Speaking of the famously somber-looking sideline stroller, Matich poked fun of Edwards: "I thought I saw Coach smile one time. Turns out, he was just upside down."
Of course, respect was there along with the ribbing.
"LaVell had a way of seeing who you could be," Young said.
"I always knew he was going to be a great quarterback," Edwards quipped.
(Then again, Edwards also mused that he thought Young would be great on defense after seeing the former NFL MVP QB throw the ball a couple of times.)
Between laughs, the BYU legends gave their insight into the Cougars' daring new direction.
Young admitted playing without a conference adds an element of pressure and compared it to a circus high-wire walk with no safety net. Increased exposure gives the Cougars more chances to win people over by succeeding — and ample opportunities to lose respect and momentum by losing while many are watching.
But, Young added, "I think there's tremendous upside."
Recalling how ESPN helped put BYU's high-flying offense on a "national conscience" in the 1980s, Edwards said he believes the school's renewed relationship with the broadcasting behemoth makes going independent "very exciting."
Detmer didn't have The mtn. at his Texas home, so he is excited to finally be able to watch BYU football games again.
"It's going to be great for the fans," he said.
However, Detmer said the change will take some getting used to — especially not having games against longtime conference foes Wyoming, Air Force and Colorado State.
Not having a conference championship to play for will be one strange thing to get used to, according to Edwards. That'll force a mindset change, with all games being equally important.
"It puts a lot of pressure to make sure you come out of the gates strong," he added.10 comments on this story
But former BYU defensive star Bryan Kehl called Bronco Mendenhall "creative," and said the Cougar coach will be able to get his players pumped up to play.
"He'll come up with a way to motivate the guys," Kehl said.
One example, he cited, is Mendenhall's focus on BYU winning the state championship over Utah and Utah State (sorry, Timpview).
Kehl even got in a fun shot at the old guys. He reminded Matich that he was born in 1984, joking that might be a reason why the year turned out so fortunate for that season's national champions.