That's been one of those lessons where I've learned, 'Never say never.' —Bronco Mendenhall, on setting up his Twitter account
PROVO — BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall is Twitterpated.
Well, not exactly. Let's not get carried away here.
But the fact is, a few weeks ago, Mendenhall established his own Twitter account: @BYU_Football.
Don't expect to find out what Bronco ate for breakfast, or where his favorite surfing spots are, or his biggest pet peeves by following him on Twitter.
But followers could learn a lot about the coach and his program.
Last December in San Diego, while waiting for the Poinsettia Bowl press conference to begin, a reporter casually asked Mendenhall if he would ever consider getting a Twitter account.
Mendenhall responded with a blank stare, then asked for a brief explanation of the social media site.
After listening to a description of Twitter, Mendenhall replied flatly, "I'm not sold."
Apparently, others were more convincing.
Mendenhall suddenly greeted the Twitter World with this message on April 16: "Our staff has won out — I've finally joined Twitter. Happy how spring football finished & looking forward to the season. Proud to be a Cougar!"
Before the day was over, he had acquired a few thousand followers.
This unexpected development shocked his players. Former Cougar linebacker Brandon Ogletree, who just finished his senior year, reacted with this tweet: "Never thought I'd see the day."
Perhaps informed that there are a bevy of fake Bronco Mendenhall Twitter accounts floating around out there, the coach tweeted out a photo of himself tweeting, as proof that it was indeed him.
On Wednesday night, Mendenhall tweeted out a humorous picture of himself from last week's National Football League draft — standing next to Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah and wearing Ziggy's 3-D glasses without lenses.
"Thinking about the 3D glasses for the sideline next year," Mendenhall wrote. "Maybe for the entire staff!"
Joining Twitter was a big, and surprising, step for a man who prizes his privacy.
"That's been one of those lessons where I've learned, 'Never say never,’ ” Mendenhall said of setting up his Twitter account. "In my eight years as the coach here, one of the things that has been a unique struggle, and a learning opportunity, is how to share information appropriately and timely, and also handle sensitive information, and share it with fans and the media, and then have it come in the very best light possible, and in the most truthful manner possible. What I've learned is that when I rely on others to share that information, rarely do I think has it been captured or presented in a way that I think is reflective of the way it was intended — whether it's by me, or someone else."
Over the past month, Mendenhall decided that Twitter was a viable option — a way to express himself, shall we say, at a higher level. Twitter provides him a platform to address issues or questions without filters to a relatively widespread audience. Many coaches around the country use Twitter as a recruiting tool. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe has his own Twitter handle.
"In the past two weeks or so since I started this, there was an epiphany of, why don't I just share more?" Mendenhall explained. "Then I have the ability to squelch a rumor if it's not true. If word gets back to me that something is circulating out there, there's a chance to clarify points that aren't understood that well. It also gives me a chance to share some insight and fun things with the fan base and Cougar Nation that provide them with a unique glimpse into maybe what they wouldn't see with traditional sources. It just seemed appropriate now after eight years to take ownership of the messaging, not only for me personally, and for Holly (Mendenhall's wife) and my family, but for the program."
Don't count on Mendenhall tweeting about what he ate for dinner last night.
"I don't really intend for it to be a personal, day-to-day 'this is what's happening.' But when there are significant events that warrant explanation or inclusion of people seeing it that might enjoy it, or might be searching for more clarification on an issue, I think those are the times," Mendenhall said. "The things I've shared so far are pretty good examples of that. I'm still learning how to type. I'm misspelling things and my thumbs are hitting each other. I don't see it as what's happening with me, but key moments in the program."
On the day of the NFL draft, Mendenhall shared this: "In New York and thrilled for Ziggy's future! He just told me he is nervous as Heck!"
"(Draft night) was a great example of being able to (use Twitter) I shared a message that Ziggy had texted me telling me that he was nervous as heck. I just kind of laughed out loud," Mendenhall said. "For anyone who knows him, he's getting ready to be a first-round draft pick and he's texting his coach that he's nervous as heck. It just made me smile because it was reflective of him and the program. But also one that most people wouldn't have access to. I think those are kind of insights that might be fun to share."