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'Tales from the BYU Cougars Sideline': Nobody came across the middle on John Neal — even Donny Osmond

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 7:21 p.m. MDT

Quarterback Jake Heaps, left, chats with Donny Osmond at BYU's spring practice, where Osmond told Heaps to 'quit throwing it like Betty White.' Roughly 30 years previous to this photo, Donny Osmond was flattened by BYU safety John Neal while taping a promotion for his variety show. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Quarterback Jake Heaps, left, chats with Donny Osmond at BYU's spring practice, where Osmond told Heaps to 'quit throwing it like Betty White.' Roughly 30 years previous to this photo, Donny Osmond was flattened by BYU safety John Neal while taping a promotion for his variety show. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of book excerpts from "Tales from the BYU Cougars Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Cougars Stories Ever Told," written by longtime Deseret News sports columnist Brad Rock and published with permission of Sports Publishing, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

John Neal was an all-conference safety at BYU in 1977 and 1979. He was tough. He was mean.

And he was not the least bit interested in taking it easy on an entertainer who happened to want to do a Paper Lion scene.

It was 1977, and Donny and Marie fever was still in force. The Osmonds had a television variety show going strong. One of the plans was for Donny to film a segment for the show, in which he would play wide receiver and race downfield through the defense.

John Neal (BYU) John Neal (BYU)

BYU’s defensive players got good news and bad news. The good news was they would be on national television. The bad news: They would be missing tackles all over the field. They had been instructed to miss Osmond on purpose, allowing him to score a long touchdown.

The TV crew arrived for the filming, and Edwards told his players what they were to do. “Nobody tackle him,” said Edwards.

Neal wasn’t listening. 
He heard, but he wasn’t listening.
 The play was called, the cameras rolled, and Osmond came over the middle, catching the pass on the run. But just as he caught the ball, Neal nailed him with a chest-high tackle, separating the singer from the football in short order. Osmond was knocked flat. Some thought he was knocked out. One thing is certain: When he got up, he did so slowly.

You might say he had an amazing Technicolor dream.

"Tales from the BYU Cougars Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Cougars Stories Ever Told" is by Brad Rock. (Kent Condon)

In one of the few incidents when Edwards was honestly upset, he called out, “I told you not to touch that guy!”

Neal tried to look contrite but didn’t quite get it done. Because nobody came across the middle on Neal unchallenged.

Even if he did have his own TV show.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company