It could be argued that Darrell Bevell came within a broken finger of BYU greatness.
When the Arizona prep star injured his throwing hand in the late 1980s, the Cougars recruited a different quarterback and moved on.
But a different path suited Bevell. After serving a Mormon mission, he returned to lead Wisconsin to a victory in the Rose Bowl and eventually found a career in coaching. Last January he was named the offensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks.
Bevell feels as fortunate today as he did in 1993.
“I look back and think I can’t believe where I came from,” Bevell told the LDS Church News. “I just feel greatly blessed.”
It was always Bevell’s dream to play at BYU, according to a 1993 LDS Church News article.
Bevell grew up as the son of a football coach. When he threw for 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior at Chapparal High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., Bevell had the attention of the Cougars’ coaches. Several other Division I programs were also interested.
Then two games, 500 yards and five TDs into his senior year, he broke a finger on his throwing hand and the recruiting hype dissolved. BYU went in a different direction and offered its scholarship to a gunslinger quarterback from Texas named Ty Detmer.
But Brad Childress, then the offensive coordinator at Northern Arizona, persuaded Bevell to enroll at NAU.
Bevell redshirted his first year and impressed the Northern Arizona coaches the following spring. When the starting quarterback was injured, Bevell was slotted as the starting quarterback going into the fall.
But the Lord had other plans.
An article by Laury Livsey in the LDS Church’s New Era magazine says Bevell felt impressed to go on a mission during his first year but stiff-armed the promptings. When the feelings returned, he was troubled and prayed for guidance. Finally he made the decision to serve, despite the opportunity to play. The Lumberjacks' coaches tried desperately to change his mind, but Bevell knew what he had to do.
“I was believing a lot of what he (the head coach) was saying, but I’ve always been the kind of person who makes decisions, then sticks to it,” Bevell told the New Era. “Since I’d already made my decision to go, it wasn’t hard, regardless of what the coach was saying."
Childress moved to the University of Utah for the 1990 season and offered Bevell a scholarship to come be the Utes’ starting quarterback. No thanks, Bevell said. Instead he accepted the prophet's call to serve for two years in Cleveland, Ohio.
“It wasn’t exotic, but it took the same commitment. You go where the church sends you,” Bevell told the Los Angeles Times. “We had a strict regimen that didn’t permit me time to even throw a football. I think I saw maybe parts of three games on TV.”
Bevell said Childress tried to contact him in the latter part of his mission, but his dad wouldn’t let him talk because he didn’t want his son to be distracted from the work. When Bevell returned home, his options included Northern Arizona, Utah or Wisconsin, where Childress was then coaching. Childress and Bill Callahan, another former NAU assistant, convinced Badgers coach Barry Alvarez to offer Bevell a scholarship before the returned missionary arrived on campus. They promised he would bring stability to the program. The opportunity appealed to Bevell, and he signed on.
“He was kind of a mousy kid, skinny and that sort of thing,” Childress told the Los Angeles Times. “But I knew he had good work ethics, being the coach’s son, and he had a good throwing arm. And you know, skinny kids grow up, too.”
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