PROVO — BYU wide receiver JD Falslev, a former walk-on and current team captain, is a senior. He knows his time in a Cougar uniform has an expiration date.
“I think about that every day,” said the 5-foot-8, 175-pounder from Smithfield. “Does it affect me emotionally? A little bit. There’s a little bit more oomph put into it. There’s a little bit more work left to be done to leave no stone unturned.”
There is urgency in the air as BYU, which lost its season opener last weekend at Virginia, prepares to host Texas Saturday (5 p.m., ESPN2).
As a senior, Falslev is trying to make the most of every day, every game, every play.
“I’m enjoying it. Who knows? I could be done tomorrow,” he said. “You never know when your last snap is. If you play every snap like it could be your last, you’ll be just fine.”
And that’s how Falslev has always played the game, going back to the days when he wasn’t on scholarship, just trying to prove he belonged.
His dogged determination was on display again last Saturday in a 19-16 setback to the Cavaliers, when he caught three passes for 32 yards and returned five punts for 34 yards, including a 17-yarder.
That punt return jumpstarted BYU’s first scoring drive of the season, which also featured a 24-yard reception and a 4-yard touchdown catch.
Through the years, Falslev has earned a reputation for being both reliable and unflinching.
“He’s just really tough,” said coach Bronco Mendenhall. “He’s a sure punt returner and sometimes he thinks he can do more than what we want him to. But he’s fearless. I’d rather have that and tell him to fair catch on occasion than have to encourage him to catch it and get a first down.”
Now that he’s a team captain, Falslev has more responsibility, but he isn’t doing much different than he did before.
“Just to hopefully continue to be a leader through example,” Falslev said of his approach. “Not necessarily through words. I’m trying to lead by example. Those guys can feed off of my energy, and I feed off of theirs. My relationship with (teammates) hopefully doesn’t change at all. A couple of more meetings here and there and have a little bit more say in the higher-up decision-making.”
While Falslev has enjoyed a memorable journey, going from walk-on to team captain, he points out that he’s not the only one to do it, as fellow wide receiver and team captain Skyler Ridley has accomplished the same feat.
“I think it’s a unique situation, but at the same time I have to acknowledge all the other guys that work just as hard,” he said. “To be a team captain, to be voted by your peers, is a huge honor. It’s something I don’t take lightly. It’s very humbling. But there are other guys on this team that deserve it as well. To say that my story is more unique than others, not necessarily because so many guys work hard.”
This week, the hard work revolves around improving after a difficult loss at Virginia.
“All the mistakes we made in the game are fixable. There’s nothing that’s not fixable. That’s a positive. There’s a lot of positives to take from the game,” he said. “We just didn’t execute. That’s what it came down to. We ran a lot of plays but some of them we weren’t running hard enough and we weren’t physical enough. We should be able to continue to go as fast as we can and still be able to execute. It’s a mental part of the game that has to be there. We have to be prepared throughout the week. We have to be the ones to execute.”
What does Falslev want out of his senior year?
“As long as we’re successful as a team, I’ll be happy,” he said. “We have team goals and if we reach those goals, it will be a success.”
How is success gauged, with no conference championship to play for?
“We go week by week, whether we’re in a conference or not. We have to prepare for each opponent the same way.”
And in the meantime, the fearless Falslev will continue to play each snap as if it were his last.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company