According to Boyce, oftentimes in the huddle, Detmer would change the play called by Norm Chow. “In fact, everyone knew our audibles so well that I told him we should just run a corner route when we called an audible. He said, ‘If I hit my helmet, let’s run a corner on an audible call.’ He did and we scored.”
That kind of unpredictability made Detmer hard to defend.
“Playing with him was great because you knew you were in it together and I had a tremendous confidence in him and he had the same in me. He knew I would get open and catch it. I knew he would throw it on time and accurately and wouldn’t lead me into a linebacker.”
Eric Drage, who caught 1105 yards and 12 touchdowns on Detmer passes, is BYU’s No.-9 ranked all-time receiver. Detmer’s tight end, Chris Smith, set an NCAA record for season receiving yards by a tight end from Detmer.
“Playing with Ty was awesome. You never knew what to expect both on and off the field,” Drage said.
“He was the smartest player I ever played with and his knowledge was only rivaled by possibly Norm Chow. He was by far the best leader I've ever been around. We never doubted he was going to lead us to victory, no matter how bleak it seemed.
“Remember the San Diego St. game we tied 52-52? We were down huge at halftime and he told us we were going to win the game. And we would've if coach Edwards would've had some riverboat gambler in him. Ty was a huge prankster that always kept things light during practice. He was a great player and a better person.”
A signature photo in 1990 of doctors working on his cut chin during the upset win over defending national champion Miami speaks volumes about Detmer to those who know him.
“Ty is one of the toughest guys to ever play at BYU,” claims former head trainer George Curtis, who cannot speak due to an illness but relayed his thoughts by computer on Sunday.
In the 1990 Holiday Bowl with Texas A&M, Detmer, then the Heisman winner, left the game in the second quarter with a grade-three left shoulder separation. “I found out later, it was the only time he ever left a game due to injury in his life,” Curtis said.
“We took Ty into the locker room while the game was still going on with doctors Richard and Robert Jackson and my assistant TJ Bryne. When the half ended, both doctors agreed with the field assessment and were in the process of giving him a shot of Marcaine to help with the pain.
“When halftime ended and we returned to the field, I was shocked to see Ty warming up with the team. I went over to tell him there was no way we would allow him to play.”
Apparently Detmer had worked on Chow and convinced him he was fine. “We were all in a circle, in a big debate about the pros and cons of his ability to play. There were the Jacksons, Chow, Edwards and myself. While in this discussion we heard the crowd roar. We looked to see what it was all about and there was Ty running onto the field.
“I made a big fuss about it. LaVell said to let him finish the series and we would pull him for good. About the second play, Texas A&M blitzed and sacked him and gave Ty a second AC separation on his other shoulder. Sometimes it doesn’t translate that being tough is a good thing,” Curtis said.
Curtis said he’s run the gauntlet with Ty Detmer, everything from the injury to 6 a.m. workouts and late-night discussions at his home about faith, going hunting, horseback riding, and finally the discussion, selection and marriage to his wife Kim in an LDS temple.
“To rank on my list of all-time greats, a person would need to be a record-setter, a leader of men in both deeds on and off the field, to be kind to everyone and be responsible. On my list of all-time greats, Ty Detmer would head the list with Steve Young and Chad Lewis a close second,” Curtis said.
Criticized for being undersized and of questionable arm strength his entire career, Detmer’s college career proved just the opposite.
He could do this.
And he did.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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