PROVO — The last time Andrew George found himself in the middle of the BYU-Utah rivalry, in 2009, he caught a pass over the middle between Ute defenders from quarterback Max Hall, and ran untouched into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
After scoring, the senior tight end found himself at the bottom of a pile, being mobbed by teammates and fans reveling in the Cougars' dramatic 26-23 victory at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
It was the last time BYU beat Utah.
The Hall-to-George TD was one of the most memorable finishes in the storied rivalry, and George instantly became part of rivalry lore.
Looking a little older and a lot leaner, he appreciates that moment.
"I've lost 35 pounds, so people don't recognize me anymore," George said last week. "That play is the thing people remember. It's nice to have a signature play, where people remember you. I'm kind of glad, because I don't know that people would remember me otherwise. People bring it up just about every time they meet me. There's no better way to go out to finish out my career at LaVell Edwards Stadium, against our biggest rival. I can't think of any better way to go out."
Nearly three years later, George is entrenched in the rivalry again as No. 25 BYU prepares to visit Utah Saturday (8 p.m. MT, ESPN).
George returned to the program in the spring, serving as a graduate assistant for the Cougar offense, working 14-hour days, helping with the offensive line and the tight ends. He will be in the press box at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, assisting offensive line coach Mark Weber.
Meanwhile, Hall is back, too, as a student assistant. He will be on the BYU sidelines Saturday, helping with the quarterbacks.
"It's good to be back with Max, and see him every day," George said. "It's funny, we talk about stuff that happened when we were playing. On the flip side, we understand things a little bit different now from the coaching side, why they make certain decisions. We're seeing the other side of the coin together."
George, who is earning a master's in public administration, would like to be a coach someday.
"That's why I'm doing this. I love that I'm getting a graduate degree," he said. "That's my compensation pretty much for being a graduate assistant. The reason why I'm back is I want to coach. So far it's been really good."
George and former teammate Dennis Pitta, who is playing for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, provided BYU with a productive one-two punch at tight end in 2008 and 2009. George and Pitta both graduated after the '09 season, leaving the Cougars with a big void at that position with young and inexperienced players.
For George, it's gratifying to see this group of tight ends develop and perform the way they have this season.
"It's good for me to teach certain things to them," George said. "And it's good for them to learn from somebody who's been through it. I think that's what those guys lacked their first couple of years in the program."
Hall, meanwhile, has provided a boost for the Cougar offense by assisting Brandon Doman, who is both offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
"It's really a good fit, not only for (quarterback) Riley (Nelson), but also for coach Doman," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "(Doman) can step out of his quarterback meetings, Max can run them, and Brandon can go wherever he needs to, not only during meetings but practice. It's just another really, really valuable resource."
Nelson, who was Hall's backup in 2009, enjoys having Hall back in the program.
"It's been fantastic. I really appreciate all that he brings to the table as far as wisdom and experience," Nelson said. "Then just his knowledge of the game. He was very knowledgeable when he was here, then the time he spent in the NFL he learned a lot. He's a student of the game and I am, too. Every little tidbit that he has to offer, I just soak it up."
Said Mendenhall, "When you put Max and Riley together, I'm not sure there's a more competitive combination of guys on the planet."
So, a few years removed from teaming up on their game-winning touchdown, George and Hall will impact this year's BYU-Utah showdown, even if it is in smaller, unseen ways.
What will George be telling Cougar players this week about the rivalry?36 comments on this story
"I would tell them, the game gets built up so much. It's hard to not be super amped-up for the game and let the hype in the community affect you," he said. "If you can, try to block it out and treat it like any other week. In that '09 game, there was a lot of trash talk and chippy stuff going on. But by the second quarter, things settled down and it's like any other game. You're just playing ball. That's the advice I would give."
By George, he knows what he's talking about.