The big question was when to start. After two? Three? Six? For Lee Benson, Deseret News sports editor, that question was answered for him in 1986. After an amazing run of six all-America quarterbacks at Brigham Young University, spanning 13 years, the string was broken then.
The material for a book was there after eight seasons and four quarterbacks, Benson recalled. Gary Sheide, Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson and Jim McMahon had led the Cougars through a string of incredible records and seasons. Steve Young and Robbie Bosco then came along to make it an even more remarkable story.Last week, "And They Came To Pass," a book by Benson chronicling the success, and the failures, of BYU's six quarterbacks, was released.
The idea for the project came before Young or Bosco began passing footballs, Benson said. Following the Cougars, first as an aspiring young reporter and later as a daily columnist, he watched the players come and go and the Y. roll on to win a national championship and 11 Western Athletic Conference titles in 13 years, 10 straight between 1976 and 1985.
He talked with, watched and reported on the six quarterbacks as they passed themselves into the record books and made BYU the producer of the most efficient passing quarterbacks ever of any school in the country.
"The hardest thing (about the book) was sitting down and getting started," said Benson. "The second thing was trying to track down all the players, coaches and family members.
From start to finish, the book took more than a year. It involved interviews with each of the players, their coaches, close family members and friends, researching files and records, and a lot of recall on Benson's part.
The fact he was at most of BYU's games during the time of the quarterback, and covered all of the Cougars' major bowl wins, and losses, allowed him to blend into the book a deeper look into lives and careers of this unique blend of football talent.
Benson started at the Deseret News 15 years ago. After covering, among other things golf and high school and college sports, he was named sports editor in 1979. His writing duties have taken Benson all over the world, including Wimbledon and to Japan with the BYU football team.
He will cover the Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea, in September. He has lent a personal touch to the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Championships and the Los Angeles and Calgary Olympics for Utah readers. Twice his columns have been recognized among the top 10 in the country, and for 12 consecutive years he was been named Utah Sportswriter of the Year.
Looking back, would he write another book?
"Now that it's over, yes, I think I would if the right subject came along. At the time, though, I wondered. It was a lot more work than I thought it would be," he said.