Mortensen seemed to have it all when he came to Provo — size (6-4, 225), pedigree (his father Fred was an NFL quarterback and his prep coach) and credentials (first-team All-State on an undefeated state championship team, 55 TD passes, 4,400 passing yards). But at BYU he was stuck as a backup for three seasons and completed just 27 of 77 passes for one touchdown and four interceptions.
"I felt like I had a lot of ability and a lot to contribute," Mortensen once told the San Francisco Chronicle. "But it just felt like the system and the way things were going, it just wasn't clicking."
Mortensen wanted to get on the field so badly that in 2004 he transferred to the University of San Diego, a non-scholarship, Division I-AA program. He played for a first-year head coach named Jim Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback who would later coach Stanford and, currently, the San Francisco 49ers.
Mortensen blossomed under Harbaugh in his one and only season of play at San Diego. He completed 234 of 389 passes for 2,874 yards and 25 touchdowns in 11 games and was named first-team All-America and Co-Offensive Player of the Year in the Pioneer League.
"Maybe if I'd been with Jim for a second year," Mortensen told the Chronicle, "I'd have more of a story like (Stanford quarterback) Andrew Luck."
He signed as a free-agent with the Detroit Lions in 2005, but was cut in camp. He signed with the New England Patriots in 2006 and was assigned to the Hamburg Sea Devils in NFL Europe, where he won his first three starts. He also played briefly in the CFL and AFL.
4. Jeff Duva
Duva transferred from BYU to Hawaii when it became clear he wouldn't beat out Marc Wilson or Gifford Nielsen for the starting job. He was Hawaii's starting quarterback in 1978 and '79 and completed 218 of 405 passes for 2,950 yards, 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He played in the 1979 Hula Bowl and was named an honorable mention All-American.
5. Brad Sorensen
Sorensen, 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, redshirted the 2009 season at BYU and then transferred to Southern Utah to play for head coach Ed Lamb, a former BYU assistant coach. In 2010, he threw for 21 touchdowns, six interceptions and a school-record 3,163 yards while leading the team to its first Great West Conference championship. As a junior this season, he completed 288 of 425 passes (67.8 percent) for 3,143 yards, 17 TDs and 11 interceptions for the 6-5 T-Birds. For the second straight year he was named Great West Offensive Player of the Year.
6. Dan Hartwig
Hartwig, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound Californian, arrived at BYU in 1975 and found himself stuck behind a pair of future first-round NFL picks, Jim McMahon and Marc Wilson. He attempted just three passes and completed two for 12 yards. In 1978, he transferred to Cal-Lutheran, where he threw for 2,203 yards and 21 TDs as a senior in 1979, playing well enough that he was selected in the ninth round of the 1980 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
"He had a great arm, but he just came along when we had Jim and Marc," says Edwards.
7. Ben Olson
Most BYU fans remember Olson. He was widely considered the top football recruit in the nation at any position. At 6-foot-4, 232 pounds, he threw for 2,989 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior at Thousand Oaks (Calif.) High. Olson redshirted his freshman season at BYU in 2002, then served an LDS Church mission. When he returned, he made headlines by signing with UCLA.
He started the first five games in 2006, completing 63.7 percent of his passes for 822 yards, five TDs and five interceptions, but a knee injury early in the fifth game sidelined him for five games, and he didn't play again the rest of the season. He was named the starter again for the 2007 season, but injuries limited him to seven games and he completed just 48 percent of his passes, for 1,040 yards, seven TDs and six interceptions.
Heading into the 2008 season, Olson was expected to be the starting quarterback again after Patrick Cowan, who won the job in the spring, was sidelined with a career-ending knee injury. But just weeks before the season began, Olson broke his right foot for the second time in four months and never played again.
8. Brock Spencer
- 2015 Heisman Trophy tracker, preseason...
- High school football roundup for Friday, Aug. 28
- BYU football: With opener one week away,...
- The Utah football 100: Ranking the best...
- Video: BYU commit Jaren Hall lifts Maple...
- Guest commentary: BYU, Utah, USU best-case,...
- BYU basketball: What we learned from 4 games...
- BYU football: Ranking the most important...
- Morning links: Cougars, Utes to face... 78
- Guest commentary: How to spice up BYU... 61
- BYU football: Lone Peak's Jackson... 31
- New York Jets waive former BYU... 30
- Dick Harmon: BYU Cougars find new... 28
- Morning links: Utes are the Pac-12's 'X... 27
- Guest commentary: BYU, Utah, USU... 25
- Doug Robinson: No days off on Utes'... 25