Dick Harmon: BYU football: Holly Mendenhall takes the reins when needed for her husband, sons

Published: Saturday, May 12 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

Holly Mendenhall wife of BYU Head Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall poses Friday, May 11, 2012 in their home with some of the sports memorabilia.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

HIGHLAND — Like most mothers we know, Holly Mendenhall's daily schedule springs forward like a fired bullet — a blur of meals, taxi services and baskets of laundry. Pile on the challenge of moving into a new home with its accompanying landscaping, sprinklers, fences, flower gardens and the never-ending chore of keeping dirt out of the house, and she's hip deep in lists.

"I'm plugging away with life — chasing and raising boys. It's the story of my life. It's good, I'm lucky," says the wife of BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall on Friday between shuttling her three sons from school, soccer and swimming.

Outgoing, engaging and quick with banter, she is the polar opposite of her introverted and private husband whom the Sporting News recently listed as one of the nation's best college coaches. Where his door is open but guarded, she lives with a swinging gate and neon sign that screams accessibility.

They are good for one another.

At a Friday photo shoot crammed into a 45-minute window of access inside her home, Holly is as unpretentious, unguarded and unpampered as a Montana ranch girl can be as she quickly jumps at suggestions from photographer Scott G Winterton. Without a mirror in sight to check fears, blemishes or errant strands of hair, she dons some Cougar gear and races to Bronco's closet for a hat.

In her bare feet, she then makes fun of herself, flipping her hair like a model, telling her sons she is a cover girl. It's in reference to a recent feature and cover in Utah Valley Magazine. "I'd love to be a size 2 but I'm not, so I can just wear one of my husband's jerseys. I hate hats, but Bronco loves me to wear them. Hats are always crooked on my head."

Hat on or hat off — it doesn't matter and Holly will not flinch. Doing prissy is not in her DNA.

This is Holly Mendenhall.

Outside the back window of the new Mendenhall house, set on three acres on the boundary of Highland and Alpine, you can see the childhood digs Bronco grew up on and a pasture where his cousin is riding a cutter horse, practicing moves in the lush, tall green grass.

The new house is a project; it will take the Mendenhalls all summer to work on finishing touches in the yard.

Holly, who has a college degree in French, has taken the past 10 years to raise her sons (Cutter, Breaker and Raeder) and set her life aside for that purpose. Part of immersing herself in that duty is a philosophy of exposing her sons to other cultures inside and out of the U.S.

She recognizes the Mendenhalls are lucky to have the resources to do this, but she is passionate that it be a priority.

"I want my kids to be productive citizens, to give back and not to take what they have for granted."

So, she's taken them abroad to see how others live, eat and dress. She's also been an example of what one should do to help others in need.

Her first such venture was to take her sons to France where they biked the Loire Valley from castle to castle and then visited Cannes. Bronco didn't want to go, so she took her mother and the boys and left without him.

She's planned other trips, like hiking the Dolomites in Italy and a visit to Panama to see her brother and fly across the Panama Canal in a six-seater that landed on a strip next to a herd of cows. She's taken trips to Mexico many times with the family and gone with one of the boys to England and Scotland. The family made a humanitarian trip to Peru.

In Peru, Bronco, Holly and the boys went up to villages in the mountains with clothes, toys, games and mingled with families. Bronco threw a football around with kids who'd never seen one; he also painted fingers and toes of girls.

"Now that's a picture you have to see," says Holly.

"We've been dragging around the boys on trips for a long time. They've become pretty good little travelers."

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