Three years ago this summer my family and I went to Lake Powell with Bronco and his family.
The first day we took out the houseboat and began to anchor it into the sand. We walked with shovels in hand onto the sandy, rock-filled beach to secure the boat. My father shouted the orders from the boat to where we should dig and then yelled for me specifically not to dig, that I needed to “protect” my hands. I was playing basketball and was in the last year of my contract with Dynamo in Moscow, Russia, at the time.
Bronco and I laughed at the assertion that I could hurt my precious basketball shooting hands, and from that moment on every time our paths cross he lifts up his hands with a smile and quick laugh. I am pretty sure fathers can be a little overprotective at times.
That Lake Powell trip was the first time I had ever spent time with Bronco or his family and I came away inspired. He is a unique and a remarkable person. He is an incredible father, husband, football coach, teacher and loyal member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I recently spoke to Bronco on the phone, and here is part of our conversation.
Hansen: How is your family?
Mendenhall: My family is amazing. I have three sons and my oldest son, Cutter, has a goal to attend Oxford. He has a very clear idea of what he wants to achieve in his life as far as academics and he is very driven, bright and at 12 years old I have never heard of someone at that age knowing where they want to go to school. My son Breaker is our outdoorsmen because he loves to camp, hunt and fish, but he is also our prankster. He loves to set traps for Holly and I as we come down in the morning. He tries to trap us with soup cans, string and other devices, so we have to watch out and be on our toes at all times. My youngest son, Raider, sees himself as an extreme X-Games, no-fear kinda' guy.
Hansen: Who had the biggest influence on your career?
Mendenhall: The latter part of my career has been President Henry B. Eyring. He interviewed me before I was hired as the head coach of BYU, and I don’t believe his attempt was to be influential but the meeting with him has changed my life and the way I coach. I was nervous, intimidated and was prepared to talk football, and he solely spoke of the Church and of my testimony. I felt like he was looking right through me and into my heart. That interview with him has changed my career more than anything else collectively prior to that point. It was a defining moment for me.
Hansen: Advice to young athletes?
Mendenhall: I would give them the advice that my grandfather, John H. Vandenberg, gave me. He told me to be worthy of my hire. Which for the young athletes means don’t expect something for nothing. There is no entitlement in the world. I believe people can and will be rewarded in direct proportion to the work and commitment that they show in relation to their goals. They always need to be looking at themselves and asking the question, “What more can I do?” rather than how they prefer to be treated or how much playing time they are going to get. I would like to see a stronger focus on simply working and earning instead of expecting and having a false sense of entitlement.
Hansen: Favorite electronic device?
Mendenhall: My iPhone. I am not very technologically savvy and the iPhone gives me access to all the information I need in a simple way. It helps me manage my life. And more importantly, my wife, Holly, uses an iPhone and to communicate with her and keep my marriage in harmony, I needed to keep up with her.
Hansen: What is your favorite scripture?
Mendenhall: 2 Timothy 2:7, which says, “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.” After the first BYU football game as head coach, I was booed after choosing to punt on fourth down in the fourth quarter instead of going for it. After the game I grabbed my bag and I had my scriptures inside. I opened them up and happened to open to that scripture. It touched me and has helped me throughout my career.
Hansen: How long will BYU be an independent?
Mendenhall: It’s difficult to answer that question. There are conferences that love our brand, but many will not change their tournaments and Sunday play. We hope to find someone that will find the real value that BYU has in our fan base, standards, television capabilities and contracts. Until then I love the chance to be independent, stand alone and work as hard as we can to win as many games as possible.
Hansen: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Mendenhall: That’s a great question. I don’t know where I will be, but I hope to be teaching and inspiring the lives of young people.
Travis Hansen is a former BYU, NBA (Atlanta Hawks) and Euroleague basketball player. He co-founded the Little Heroes Foundation and is married with three children.