Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo
Now, more than six years later, Brown's career is drawing to a close. In between, he served a mission, got married, started every game since his sophomore season, and was part of a lot of BYU wins.
Brown is one of 19 seniors who will play their final home game at LaVell Edwards Stadium Satursday (8:15 pm., MT, ESPNU) as the Cougars host New Mexico State.
"I came to BYU for the environment. It felt like it was the right thing to do," Brown said this week, reflecting on his decision to come to Provo. "If I was looking at program success, I probably wouldn't have come here at that time. Coach Mendenhall's hard work and the program he's built here is a testament to the way things have been run. I'm proud to have been a part of that."
As always on Senior Night, emotions will run high. For Mendenhall, it's one of the highlights of the season.
"It's one of the most memorable things of every year," he said. "I don't remember much about last season. But I do remember hugging each senior in the stadium at the end and what the exchange was. Ultimately, at the end of this, whenever I'm done coaching, those kinds of relationships and those moments are the ones that will be the most meaningful."
"It definitely hasn't hit me yet that it's my last game," said senior wide receiver McKay Jacobson. "We'll see how I feel on game day and after the game. But I'm excited to have one more opportunity to play at home."
Senior running back Bryan Kariya has enjoyed his time as a Cougar.
"For all of us, it's a special thing to know you've been able to represent the school," he said. "It's a privilege to play for our school. I hope that every single one of us really plays our hearts out and takes in the moment and appreciates what it means to be out there."
BYU's 2011 senior class was part of some of the most memorable wins in school history, like the upset of then-No. 3 Oklahoma and the overtime victory over Utah — both in 2009. They were also part of the Cougars' final season in the Mountain West Conference and their inaugural season as an independent.
Besides Brown, Jacobson and Kariya, the other seniors who will be honored Saturday are running back JJ Di Luigi, cornerback Corby Eason, tight end Matt Edwards, defensive lineman Hebron Fangupo, linebacker Jameson Frazier, wide receiver Spencer Hafoka, linebacker Aveni Leung-Wai, wide receiver Matt Marshall, linebacker Jordan Pendleton, defensive lineman Matt Putnam, offensive lineman Matt Reynolds, defensive back Steven Thomas (who did not play this season due to injury), offensive lineman Marco Thorson, safety Travis Uale, defensive lineman Simote Vea and linebacker Jadon Wagner.
"They've helped us win a lot of football games," Mendenhall said of the seniors. "To have so many that have made it through the program from beginning to end in this class, that also means a lot to me in terms of retention and hopefully identifying the right kids on the front end. My hope is … what they say about their experience and what has transpired here will matter a lot to me. Not by what they say, but hopefully those experiences are positive and they feel it will be helpful in transitioning into real life."
What qualities characterize this senior class?
"Resiliency and success … They've helped our program do a lot of different things over their span here," Mendenhall said. "They've helped us and endured the whole thing and embraced it. I view them not necessarily as the pioneer group that came in (to the program), but they were the ones that continued it and carried it on at an even higher level."
For Brown, Saturday's game will be one he'll remember for a long time.
"Right now I'll say that I'm going to try to treat it like another game. But it's special. This is a great place to play football," he said. "Being the last time, I'm sure there will be some emotions. I'll try to keep those to the side until the end. I'm looking forward to it. I'm just happy that I've been able to be here and be part of this program. I'll miss the guys that I play with. I want to play my last home game like it is my last, because it is."
COUGARS ON THE AIR
New Mexico State (4-6) at BYU (7-3)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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