OREM — Bronco Mendenhall isn't afraid to speak his mind.
A compelling aspect of the BYU head football coach's laser-like focus on mission and purpose is his uncanny penchant for saying what he thinks without any apparent concern for how his words could be interpreted, and Mendenhall's tell-it-like-it-is persona was on full display Friday as he and 35 BYU football players presented a fireside at an LDS meetinghouse in Orem.
For example, near the end of his 14-minute address Mendenhall chided football boosters for their choice to grill him about the Cougars' 17-16 loss at the University of Texas last week instead of bask in the bigger picture of what the BYU football program is accomplishing. And by invoking a Biblical comparison involving the Jews who persecuted Jesus, Mendenhall pulled no punches.
"As I stood in front of the Cougar Club (Thursday), it felt like I was in front of the Pharisees and the Sadducees," he said. "Sometimes what play is called on third-and-20 is more important (to them) than what we're trying to do here. My hope is that you support us with your heart as you try to find what's most important in life and see the bigger picture, and join us in that purpose."
Earlier, Mendenhall spoke enthusiastically about the increased exposure BYU's football team is receiving as a result of its new broadcasting partnership with ESPN. In fact, he said, more television viewers have watched the team's last two games than all the contests combined from the previous six seasons.
"If you're talking about exposure for The Church (of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and stories to be told, already (so many) people have been influenced as to what our story is," Mendenhall said. "This life is a test, and your choices do determine and have something to do with what happens in the life hereafter — that is our story."
Before Mendenhall's remarks, two BYU football players spoke: junior long snapper Reed Hornung and senior wide receiver Matt Marshall. Both are former walk-ons now under scholarship, and each talked about the challenges each faced in establishing himself on the Cougar football team.
Marshall elicited laughs from the audience by starting his remarks doling out recognition to sophomore running back Josh Quezada "for being the best dressed tonight" on account of his eye-catching attire that included a white shirt, white tie and electric blue blazer.
"You should see what he wears (to the firesides) on the road," Marshall said. "It gets better and better, I promise."
Sophomore punter Brian Smith (Mountain View) sang "Be Still My Soul." Senior defensive back Travis Uale, sophomore offensive lineman Manaaki Vaitai and junior offensive lineman Walter Kahaiali'i teamed up to sing "When There's Love at Home." All 35 players joined in singing the primary song "We'll Bring the World His Truth." Junior offensive lineman Austin Nielsen and freshman defensive lineman Travis Tuiloma offered the invocation and benediction, respectively.
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