Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
PROVO — Just a few days after playing in the National Invitation Tournament semifinals at historic Madison Square Garden in New York City, BYU freshman Bronson Kaufusi found himself on the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium, competing in a scrimmage on the final day of spring drills.
That's the kind of freshman year it was for the talented defensive lineman/forward.
It all began just days after Kaufusi returned home from an LDS mission to New Zealand in late July. Not long after stepping off an airplane, he strapped on his pads and a helmet and began participating in fall camp.
Not only did he become a key contributor on one of the nation's top defenses, but right after BYU's season-ending bowl victory, Kaufusi joined the Cougar basketball team as a reserve forward.
But being a dual-sport athlete is nothing new for the 6-foot-7, 260-pounder from Timpview High.
"That's how it was for me in high school. I like it," Kaufusi said on the final day of spring ball. "I really like making the transition back and forth."
Kaufusi missed most of BYU's spring practices because he was moonlighting with the Cougar basketball team. But his teammates were supportive of him switching sports for a while.
"Everyone's supportive," Kaufusi said. "They like watching me play and cheering for me. The support was great from everyone."
"I think it's awesome," said linebacker Kyle Van Noy. "Playing two sports at the collegiate level is hard to do. It will be something he will get to brag about the rest of his life, that he played college basketball and college football in the same season. To me, only the best athletes in the world could do that. Julius Peppers and Bronson are in the same category."
Some of Kaufusi's teammates and coaches good-naturedly nicknamed him "LeBronson," after Miami Heat superstar LeBron James.
"They call me that," Kaufusi said with a sheepish grin, "but I'm nowhere near LeBron."
True. He's closer to Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah.
While Ansah, who played on the Cougars' defensive line last season, was drafted in the first round, No. 5 overall, by the Detroit Lions in the recently completed NFL draft, Kaufusi could be a future first-round NFL draft pick as well.
So says BYU outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga.
"You look at Bronson, he is really fast," Poppinga said. "His edge over Ziggy would be his experience playing football. His understanding of the pass rushes and playing the game is farther along than Ziggy got when he was here at BYU. Obviously, when Bronson gets to the NFL, he'll continue to excel and learn. But that's where I think Bronson will pass Ziggy, with his experience in playing. And, he has close to the same ability. In my opinion, he'll be a first-round draft pick someday. Over time, he's going to have to earn that, but he's just as athletic as Ziggy."
As for Kaufusi's future as a basketball player?
"We'll have to wait and see," Kaufusi said. "I haven't thought much about it yet. I'm not too sure. I haven't talked to anyone. We'll see."
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