In my mind, no single player had more to do with ushering in BYU's place in college football history than Jim McMahon. Virgil Carter, Gary Sheide, Gifford Nielsen and Marc Wilson were a part of the foundation. Steve Young, Robbie Bosco and Ty Detmer were the beneficiaries. But Jim McMahon, as a player, is more responsible for ushering in BYU's Golden Era than anyone else. I'll concede that much of the attention he brought to BYU wasn't the kind BYU wanted, but oddly, it had the effect of distinguishing our morals, our standards because he DIDN'T conform.
Should he have lived the Honor Code with strict obedience? Of course. Were there honor code police who rummaged his trash for beer cans? Yep. Did Mac see inconsistencies and hypocrisy around him? Yes. He saw otherwise good LDS kids who strayed, had a drink or worse, but because they kept it hidden, their status in school and in the LDS Church remained intact. Jim was a lot of things, but he was never a hypocrite. He lived openly and without much care about how it looked.
We care so much about perception and appearances, sometimes we alienate people. Mohammed Elewonibi is one of BYU's two Outland Trophy winners. He was drafted in the third round in 1990 by the Washington Redskins and after he left Provo, he allowed his hair to grow into dreadlocks. In 1995, Moe came to the Eagles for a brief stint. One day we sat at his locker and talked about BYU. I asked how often he returned to campus.
"Only been back once," he told me. "And won't be back anytime soon."
"What happened?" I asked.
"I was there for a football banquet and an administrator said to me, 'You couldn't have gotten a haircut for the occasion?' " Maybe it was well-meaning. But one of BYU's greatest players hasn't been to Provo in two decades.
You can see Mohammed Elewonibi's Outland Trophy in the Student Athlete Center next to his jersey, but you won't see Moe. Neither he nor the other Outland winner, Jason Buck, ever graduated, so they're not in the BYU Hall of Fame. If there's a BYU sports hall of fame, those two should be in it along with McMahon. Otherwise, rename it the BYU sports graduates hall of fame.
I'm in BYU's Hall of Fame. Twice. Individually and with the 1984 team. Thankfully, they didn't cherry pick just the 1984 players who graduated for induction, otherwise, some of our key members who made the plays that kept us undefeated and win the national championship wouldn't have been honored.
I'm not self-deprecating in stating that one big reason I was inducted two months after my graduation was because of what I've done after leaving BYU. Frankly, I was a backup player who started two games my senior year but did well returning kicks. Even then, Utah's Erroll Tucker was the top return man in the conference and in the country. My BYU career didn't merit a place in the BYU Hall of Fame. But they made other considerations and factored in the totality of my life and whatever impact I've had on the program.
Which is what they should do with Jim McMahon.
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