SALT LAKE CITY — Aaron Roderick acknowledged it wasn't easy. A day after accepting a position at his alma mater BYU, Roderick opted to return to his duties as Utah's receivers coach and passing game coordinator. He informed BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall of his decision Thursday morning.
"It was the hardest decision I ever had to make in my life," Roderick said. "I have a ton of respect for BYU and (offensive coordinator) Robert Anae is someone that I've always looked up to."
Roderick noted that he played for Anae at Ricks College and was intrigued by the opportunity to work with him. Roderick expressed respect for Mendenhall as well.
"There were some positives but ultimately I just really believed in our program. I believe in coach (Kyle) Whittingham and what we're doing in the Pac-12," Roderick said. "The biggest factor of all was the response yesterday from my players, our other coaches and from our fans. It was amazing the Ute fans that reached out to me. I thought I was going to get hate mail or whatever and I got nothing but love from everybody."
The response, especially from his players at Utah, was overwhelming. So much so, in fact, that Roderick felt like he couldn't turn his back on them and that ultimately was the biggest factor in his decision.
"That was really pulling on my heart," said Roderick, who received a large volume of telephone calls, text messages and personal visits from players he coached and/or recruited, as well as several parents. It proved to be very emotional.
So, too, was the response from Utah fans — many of whom contacted Roderick through e-mails, Facebook messages and texts.
"Honestly, I did not get one mean word from anyone. It's crazy to think that when the rivalry is so heated," Roderick said. "But everybody was really positive and wished me well. Some people said 'We're so sorry to see you go' and that was hard."
Variables such as his family, quality of life and loyalty also weighed into Roderick's decision to remain at Utah. He takes such things very seriously.
"It was just too much for me to walk away from," said Roderick, who added that it wasn't about football or his ambitions and duties.
This is the second time in his career that Roderick has accepted a job to coach at a different school before deciding to stay with Utah. In 2009, he was headed to Washington before deciding to stay put.
"I'm probably not very good at handling these situations, obviously. I've probably bumbled a couple of situations the way I handled it," Roderick said. "But both times I felt good that I did the right thing for my family and where my heart led me."
Roderick, who was also considered for coaching positions at Hawaii and Wisconsin since the season ended, noted that both Mendenhall and Whittingham were understanding and professional about the situation.
"Aaron decided his heart was at Utah and with our football program and asked me for the opportunity to return," Whittingham said in a released statement. "Aaron has been a valuable member of our coaching staff for the past eight years and is an excellent coach and recruiter. We are pleased he chose to stay with us."
The 40-year-old from Bountiful was a wide receiver at Ricks College (1994-95) and BYU (1996-97) before embarking on a coaching career. He joined the Utah staff when Whittingham became the head coach in 2005 following stints at Southern Utah, Snow College and BYU (graduate assistant).
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company