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BYU football: Cougs have many players with family ties to BYU

Reynolds siblings are like many who have family ties to BYU

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 30 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

BYU assistant head coach Lance Reynolds, center, poses for a portrait with his sons Houston, left, and Matt, right, after a recent practice.

Jason Olson, Deseret News

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PROVO — When it comes to family and football, Lance Reynolds considers himself blessed.

As the BYU assistant head coach/running backs coach helps oversee practices every day, two of his sons are out on the field with him. While they don't work together directly — Matt and Houston Reynolds are offensive linemen — they're carrying on a family tradition and striving to build the Cougar football program.

"To have them here with me is a very unusual pipedream that happened for us," Lance Reynolds said.

Reynolds' two older sons, Lance Jr., and Dallas, also played for the Cougars — which is something special for their dad, who was an offensive lineman at BYU in the 1970s and has been an assistant here since 1983. "It's super-rewarding, to have your kids come and play at the same place you played," Lance Reynolds said.

Yet the Reynolds clan isn't the only one with long-standing connections to the program. Like every year, the Cougar roster is dotted with players who have strong bonds to BYU athletics.

The 2009 Cougars feature six sets of brothers on the roster, including the Reynolds boys. But the ties run deeper than that. More than 30 players have relatives — grandfathers, fathers, sons, brothers, cousins, or even a wife, sister or mother — who are, or have been, involved in BYU athletics.

It's a phenomenon that's quite unique to the LDS-owned school.

"Because of the religious background, our circle of players and athletes and recruits cross over more than at most places," Reynolds said. "We have a lot of families that have had kids play here or dads or brothers or cousins. ... That's one of the things that makes us a little different.

"The bulk of our kids are way committed to the place. It helps us in team unity, in commitment, in the weight room, in a lot of ways. We obviously would like to keep that thing alive and have players here who carry on that tradition. It's a good thing."

Wide receiver Matthew Edwards is the grandson of legendary coach LaVell Edwards. Linebacker Jordan Atkinson's dad played for BYU, and his grandpa was BYU's head coach in the 1950s. Wide receiver McKay Jacobson's mother, Hally, was a Cougar cheerleader and his sister, Jeniel, is a current BYU cheerleader. Offensive lineman R.J. Willing's wife, Emi, plays softball for the Cougars.

Though coach Bronco Mendenhall didn't play at BYU, his dad, Paul, and his older brother, Mat, did. He agrees that these family links are a bonus for the program.

"I think it makes it more meaningful to those who are coming after brothers or fathers to play here," said Mendenhall, whose cousin's boys, Zeke and Zane Mendenhall, are on the team. "It adds a different level of commitment, which ultimately helps us with our consistency over the long haul."

Lance Reynolds' sons spent a lot of time around the program growing up, but he didn't spend much time talking about BYU football at home. His sons were heavily recruited out of high school, but he stayed out of that process, maintaining the role of father rather than coach.

"I told the (coaches at BYU), I was going to be their dad and somebody else at BYU was going to have to recruit them. I didn't want to be in the position of recruiting my kids. ... There were a couple of guys I thought we might lose in that process of recruiting. It's kind of weird when you're sitting in your house and have a coach from another school talking to you about going there."

Defensive lineman Brett Denney's dad, Craig, played for BYU, as did older brothers Ryan and John.

"I grew up watching BYU football and I had opportunities to look at other schools," Brett said. "BYU has the whole package. It's a great school, a great football program and a great environment that caters to our faith. It's just the whole tradition here, the spirit here. Players grow up knowing about this place."

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