After that interview with Mendenhall, I started talking to Crowton. I found him to be as genuine as Mendenhall. At first he didn’t want to discuss the rape case. That was to be expected. Besides a lengthy interview with the police back in 2004, Crowton had not said boo about the incident. There wasn’t much upside for him to revisit that nightmare.
But some of the best interviews I did for "The System" were with Gary Crowton. He’s a first-class act who made untold personal and family sacrifices in an effort to help BYU’s football program succeed. Outside Crowton’s family, Mendenhall may be the only person who knows just how much Crowton went through in his brief tenure in Provo. They are best friends. Mendenhall cried the day Crowton was forced to resign.
I’m partial to tough guys who have functioning tear ducts. I like introverts, too. Mendenhall’s circle of friends has been pretty small in Provo. When he’s not working he usually retreats to be with his wife and children.
All of those traits appealed to me as a writer. Introverts are fascinating. They have so much to say. It’s just that they rarely say it.
But when it came time to discuss Kyle Van Noy’s troubles with the law during high school, Mendenhall came alive. He’s a football coach and can be pretty monotone — frankly, boring — when doing post-game press conferences. He’s no Mike Leach, who is known for using colorful four-letter words and telling hilarious stories while breaking down game sequences.
On the other hand, when you get Mendenhall going on the concept of redemption, he suddenly turns into Victor Hugo. The coach could write his own version of "Les Miserables." Only the characters in his narrative are real. They are his players. Guys like Van Noy, Spencer Hadley and many others that he has helped on the journey from boys to men.
In an era when college football has become flush with money and the attitude is win at all costs, along comes a guy who puts student-athletes’ long-term health and well-being first. He clearly took LaVell Edwards’ advice. He is his own man.
Jeff Benedict is a best-selling author and columnist for SI.com. He recently wrote "The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football" with Armen Keteyian.
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