It could be argued that Darrell Bevell came within a broken finger of BYU greatness.
When the Arizona prep star injured his throwing hand in the late 1980s, the Cougars recruited a different quarterback and moved on.
But a different path suited Bevell. After serving a Mormon mission, he returned to lead Wisconsin to a victory in the Rose Bowl and eventually found a career in coaching. Last January he was named the offensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks.
Bevell feels as fortunate today as he did in 1993.
“I look back and think I can’t believe where I came from,” Bevell told the LDS Church News. “I just feel greatly blessed.”
It was always Bevell’s dream to play at BYU, according to a 1993 LDS Church News article.
Bevell grew up as the son of a football coach. When he threw for 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior at Chapparal High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., Bevell had the attention of the Cougars’ coaches. Several other Division I programs were also interested.
Then two games, 500 yards and five TDs into his senior year, he broke a finger on his throwing hand and the recruiting hype dissolved. BYU went in a different direction and offered its scholarship to a gunslinger quarterback from Texas named Ty Detmer.
But Brad Childress, then the offensive coordinator at Northern Arizona, persuaded Bevell to enroll at NAU.
Bevell redshirted his first year and impressed the Northern Arizona coaches the following spring. When the starting quarterback was injured, Bevell was slotted as the starting quarterback going into the fall.
But the Lord had other plans.
An article by Laury Livsey in the LDS Church’s New Era magazine says Bevell felt impressed to go on a mission during his first year but stiff-armed the promptings. When the feelings returned, he was troubled and prayed for guidance. Finally he made the decision to serve, despite the opportunity to play. The Lumberjacks' coaches tried desperately to change his mind, but Bevell knew what he had to do.
“I was believing a lot of what he (the head coach) was saying, but I’ve always been the kind of person who makes decisions, then sticks to it,” Bevell told the New Era. “Since I’d already made my decision to go, it wasn’t hard, regardless of what the coach was saying."
Childress moved to the University of Utah for the 1990 season and offered Bevell a scholarship to come be the Utes’ starting quarterback. No thanks, Bevell said. Instead he accepted the prophet's call to serve for two years in Cleveland, Ohio.
“It wasn’t exotic, but it took the same commitment. You go where the church sends you,” Bevell told the Los Angeles Times. “We had a strict regimen that didn’t permit me time to even throw a football. I think I saw maybe parts of three games on TV.”
Bevell said Childress tried to contact him in the latter part of his mission, but his dad wouldn’t let him talk because he didn’t want his son to be distracted from the work. When Bevell returned home, his options included Northern Arizona, Utah or Wisconsin, where Childress was then coaching. Childress and Bill Callahan, another former NAU assistant, convinced Badgers coach Barry Alvarez to offer Bevell a scholarship before the returned missionary arrived on campus. They promised he would bring stability to the program. The opportunity appealed to Bevell, and he signed on.
“He was kind of a mousy kid, skinny and that sort of thing,” Childress told the Los Angeles Times. “But I knew he had good work ethics, being the coach’s son, and he had a good throwing arm. And you know, skinny kids grow up, too.”
“Wisconsin was short on quarterbacks I was impressed with what I saw and heard,” Bevell said. “The chance to play right away was important to me. Perhaps because I was older, but more because I hadn’t played for so long and I was anxious to get out and see what I could do.”
Bevell became the starter in the second game of the 1992 season, which seemed fitting after being injured two games into his senior year in high school. Bevell also became the only married player on the team when he wed the former Tammy Barlow of Orem, Utah, in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple.
Alvarez knew Bevell had an upside, thanks to his friend Rick Majerus, then Utah’s basketball coach.
“He told me that you can always notice great improvement between the first and second year with Mormon players who have been on a mission,” Alvarez told the Los Angeles Times.
He was right.
Bevell went on to become a four-year starter and helped transform Wisconsin from a struggling program into a national power. Bevell led the Badgers to an impressive 10-1-1 record in 1993, a share of the Big Ten title and the school’s first Rose Bowl invitation since 1963. His 67.8 percent completion mark set that year still stands as a conference record.
Wisconsin ended the season by defeating UCLA, 21-16, in the 1994 Rose Bowl. Bevell’s stats weren’t spectacular in the big game — 10 of 20 for 96 yards — but he made several clutch plays. The most significant came with the Badgers clinging to a 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter. On second-and-eight from the UCLA 21, Bevell dropped back to pass, then saw an opening and scrambled 21 yards down the left sideline for the game-winning touchdown. Running was the last way Bevell expected to help his team win.
“After I got into the end zone, I was laughing. My teammates were laughing,” Bevell told the LDS Church News in 1994. “It was one of the greatest moments in my life.”
After guiding the Badgers to a win over Duke in the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl, Bevell failed to make an NFL team as an undrafted free agent. But he still loved football and found a coaching job at Westmar University in Le Mars, Iowa, in 1996. A 2010 article in the Sioux City Journal describes Bevell’s first coaching gig.
According to his bio, Bevell moved to Iowa State as a graduate assistant in 1997 and continued on to the University of Connecticut for two seasons (1998-99) as a wide receivers coach.
From UConn, Bevell jumped to the NFL and the Green Bay Packers, where he spent three years as quarterback coach and worked with Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck.
When Childress was hired as Minnesota’s head coach in 2006, he asked Bevell to be his offensive coordinator. Bevell accepted.
Following the 2010 season, Bevell, now 41, was asked by coach Pete Carroll to come to Seattle and oversee the offense. In an article in the Olympian, Carroll is pleased with his new offensive coordinator.
“Darrell is an accomplished play caller,” Carroll told the Olympian. “He owns the throwing game that we’re working with, he totally understands the concepts and the principles and the calling of our run game. He’s a young, bright coach that’s going to be a head coach someday. He’s just got his act together, and he gets it. We’re really lucky to have him.”
Bevell credits his NFL success to Childress, the coach who believed in him as a high school recruit in Arizona.
“I learned a lot from him, and it goes all the way back from college. He taught me the game from the quarterback perspective.”
Mormons in the NFL
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John Beck, QB, Redskins, BYU
Austin Collie, WR, Colts, BYU
Chris Cooley, TE, Redskins, Utah State
*Christian Cox, LB, Patriots, Utah
*Kevin Curtis, WR, Titans, Utah State
Stewart Bradley, LB, Cardinals, Nebraska
John Denney, LS, Dolphins, BYU
Jonathan Fanene, DL, Bengals, Utah
*Max Hall, QB, Cardinals, BYU
Todd Heap, TE, Cardinals, Arizona State
Chris Hoke, DL, Steelers, BYU
Bryan Kehl, LB, Rams, BYU
Brett Keisel, DL, Steelers, BYU
Paul Kruger, DL, Ravens, Utah
Spencer Larsen, FB, Broncos, Arizona
Deuce Lutui, OL, Cardinals, Southern California
Fili Moala, DL, Colts, Southern California
*Tony Moeaki, TE, Chiefs, Iowa
Haloti Ngata, DL, Ravens, Oregon
Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens, BYU
Brady Poppinga, LB, Rams, BYU
Sione Pouha, DT, Jets, Utah
Samson Satele, C, Raiders, Hawaii
Vic So’oto, LB, Packers, BYU
Will Tukuafu, DT, 49ers, Oregon
#Harvey Unga, RB, Bears, BYU
Eric Weddle, DB, Chargers, Utah
Practice squad players
Matt Asiata, RB, Vikings, Utah
Stanley Havili, RB, Eagles, USC
Garrett Mills, TE, Patriots, Tulsa
Dallas Reynolds, OL, Eagles, BYU
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