Keith Johnson, Deseret News
The throaty patented roar of his Harley-Davidson started Bronco Mendenhall ahead of an army of riders Saturday morning up Provo Canyon en route to Mirror Lake. It was a ride for charity as the clock winds down on his offseason.
Atop his blue and white 1700cc Screamin' Eagle Road King, with his older brothers on his flanks, Mendenhall is racking up some cycle time. He just returned from a 12-hour ride from Montana to see his wife. Monday, his staff will ride to Jackson Hole for a three-day retreat.
The Easy Rider stuff is doing wonders for the coach. He feels less stress.
He's more focused. He's happier. On the road, he feels giddy as Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. His pent up frustrations slowly ooze away. His commute to work used to be a negative. Now on his Harley, it's, well, magic.
When he gets home, his wife, Holly, greets a more relaxed man. His kids see a quicker, more patient smile. He feels purged.
This summer, Mendenhall rode his Harley to California to surf. He rode along the Lewis and Clark trail to Montana to ride the river and fly fish.
He's got his staff involved. They often go on rides around Utah Lake, several staffers racing him as O-line coach Mark Weber brings up the rear with training wheels. The Harley has proved part of a formula to lift his spirits in a job that can get Vice-Grip-like in season.
"This is the most prepared I've felt as a head coach," said Mendenhall.
"And I'm talking about recharging. The last two years, I didn't feel that way. The seasons started and they felt like a continuation of the one before.
"In this particular case and year, my wife and I have found a magic formula (surfing, riding bikes and riding rivers). Whether it will affect our record, I don't know. But speaking for myself personally, I feel like I'm as ready for this season as I've ever felt."
A more at ease Bronco? Is it because this is year 5? Is it because he's got a seasoned team with mature players? Is it because he's not picked to win the MWC? "I think its trust and perspective," said the coach. "I trust our players. I trust those caring for them and I realize as I delegate more and more, I put myself in a different position to think about different things," Mendenhall continued. "The program is maturing. It just comes. You can't predict it and you can't force it but that's what's happening.
"I'm not saying I'm not as interested or as invested, but my work is different now."
How relaxed is BYU's football coach these days? He often hangs out at the Timpanogos Harley-Davidson. "Other places he talks football. Here he talks motorcycles and rides; it's his other place," said owner David Tuomisto as he looked out the window of his operation Saturday and saw Mendenhall mobbed by riders and fans seeking a photo opportunity. This was not his sanctuary day, but he agreed to ride and allow others in his bubble.
"Bronco's a little socially challenged. So when he comes here, we don't talk football, we talk about how it would be to live in Wallsburg," added Tuomisto.
The other day, Tuomisto, whose father Dennis used to "take care" of ASU coaches from Frank Kush to John Cooper in the clothing business, asked Mendenhall if Utah coach Kyle Whittingham would like a Harley hookup endorsement like the one he gave the BYU coach.
"Let's call him and find out," said Mendenhall.
Sound in the background is china crashing from an earthquake, the ice from rain in hell freezing over.
Bronco doesn't call Whittingham often, if at all, but he got Coach Whit on the line and handed the phone to Tuomisto. Whittingham is a former Harley owner and agreed to hook up with Timpanogos. This past week Whittingham rode a Crimson Red Fat Boy up Ogden Canyon, said Tuomisto.
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