Brandon Ogletree: Bronco Mendenhall really is how Jeff Benedict's book portrays him

By Brandon Ogletree

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Sept. 14 2013 11:49 a.m. MDT

Before our game against San Diego State, Mendenhall gave each member of the team a gray T-shirt with our motto “Band of Brothers” printed on the back, as a tribute to the trust we had in each other as well as our hard work during the week. After starting the season 1-4 and doing everything possible to claw our way out, those shirts meant the world to us, and we wore them with pride under our uniforms as a symbol of unity and brotherhood. The loose-fitting T-shirts — instead of sleek form-fitting gear — made us look like a group of misfits, but we loved how they represented our workmanlike attitude.

Among the favorite moments of my career was when we took the field for the 2010 game against San Diego State. Coach Mendenhall wore his gray T-shirt on the sideline instead of his usual collared shirt. We later found out that by ditching his prearranged sideline attire, he had breached his contract with Nike and lost out on hefty endorsement compensation.

He didn’t care, though. To him, it was more important to show solidarity. It was a seemingly small thing at the time but it had an enormous impact on our season.

In a time when coaches leave to new universities at the drop of a hat, I’m grateful to have been able to associate with a leader more interested in staying true to what he believes than chasing the biggest contract.

Mendenhall’s fierce loyalty to Brigham Young University and the standards of its sponsoring institution has drawn criticism, but to his players, those values are a strong source of motivation. By not backing down from the principles to which he is loyal, Mendenhall has established a culture of unity and brotherhood that is uncommon today in college athletics.

Integrity

When Kyle Van Noy was arrested for a DUI before graduating high school, coach Mendenhall was sad to inform him that he would have to be released from his commitment and that he would not be able to attend school at BYU. As Keteyian and Benedict point out, the moment the news surfaced of Van Noy's DUI, countless other programs reopened recruitment, trying to lure him away — they knew his chance to play at BYU was over.

Think about what that says about the culture of college football. A high school player’s DUI — and Van Noy’s athletic potential, obviously — triggered interest from teams.

It would have been easy for Mendenhall to make an exception in order to not lose out on a star recruit, but because Mendenhall stayed true to his beliefs, he was able to help Van Noy stay true. Up to this point, I’d say everything has turned out all right.

Mendenhall’s integrity is also manifested in how hard he works. This is a guy whose childhood duty was to break horses on his family’s ranch. Whether he is studying film for an upcoming opponent or learning leadership concepts from organizational behavior books, he is always the first one at the facility and the last to leave.

He teaches the team integrity through his example. He is completely dedicated to doing everything he can to help his players and the program achieve their goals. While other coaches around the country believe that winning football games is the main meaning of success in life, coach Mendenhall believes that football is a vehicle by which successful life habits can be learned.

Spirituality

THE SYSTEM points out that the first thing Mendenhall did after being named head coach was to go to his office and pray for guidance.

Mendenhall believes strongly that BYU’s stringent Honor Code can be used to the program’s advantage and makes no apologies for the way he expects his players to conduct themselves both in public and in private. He constantly preaches to the team that it is impossible for the players to reach their full potential if they are engaging in activities that can damage their spirit.

Mendenhall has been an example to me in this regard on many occasions, but one occasion stands out.

The first example occurred one night after a particularly grueling practice late in the season. I happened to be behind Mendenhall as we walked from the indoor practice facility back to the locker room, and I noticed him approach a random student who was crossing the sidewalk in front of us.

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