Daniel Coats isn't a tight end playing second fiddle to All-American Jonny Harline.

He isn't taking a back seat, side seat or any other kind of seat around Harline — except being his teammate. And BYU's coaches will never look at Coats as the forgotten player in light of Harline's famous catch to end the BYU-Utah game last month, capping an undefeated MWC championship, national ranking and 10-2 campaign.

This week, Harline earned All-America honors from The Sporting News, the latest in several such recognitions. In a rare expression of candid rhetoric, his coach praised a two-headed playmaker; giving Harline his due but never forgetting the whole script.

Offensive coordinator Robert Anae will always look at Coats and Harline as a duo, a left-jab and roundhouse hook combo.

"I don't think we've had a pair of tight ends this good at BYU since Itula Mili (Seattle Seahawks) and Chad Lewis (Philadelphia Eagles) back in 1996," Anae said.

Coats' big catches in the regular season finale — including his sixth, a key fourth-quarter touchdown to set up Harline's "Answered Prayer" against the Utes — register as big as any other on that day.

And Anae's got a point.

A boxer needs both hands to slug. BYU needed Coats and Harline to win in 2006.

Coats will play his final game as a Cougar in the Pioneer Vision Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 21, in Sam Boyd Stadium. He's got the attitude of a brush salesman — the sun is always shining in the Coats universe. It's a place where the best moment of every day is when he walks in the door and is greeted by his three children and wife.

"They are the best thing that's ever happened to me," Coats says.

You start there, with Coats. Football is just whipped cream on top of the pie.

His wife, Alicia, has been his girlfriend since junior high. He knew he'd marry her six years ago. Their three children are the most of any couple on BYU's squad. Alicia has spearheaded an informal players' wife organization and made T-shirts for every wife with accompanying jersey numbers.

"She's a grab-the-bull-by-the-horns type of person," said Coats.

The fact that Alicia works with the Boy Scouts in a local LDS ward, and neither Daniel or Alicia are LDS, shows her community involvement, drive and resolve.

"She teaches preschool to five kids on our block and sells Stamp It Up cards in our neighborhood," Coats said. "She gave up a college scholarship to stay home and raise the children.

"It's made me grow up quicker. And the kids, I don't know what I'd do without them."

Coats came like a storm on the BYU scene his freshman year. As a sophomore, he pressed and faded. As a junior, he was BYU's most improved football player on offense. And this year? If Coats was at Augusta, he'd leave the course with a green jacket, a master.

Forgotten behind Harline?

"I'm sure somebody thinks he's forgotten, but nobody around here thinks that," Anae said.

"We're fortunate to have the kind of year we've had with Daniel and John. It's been quite a while since we've had that kind of production around here by a pair of tight ends. We're going to miss them. We got spoiled."

The duo combined for 71 catches for 993 yards and 13 touchdowns this past season. Harline had the most catches and TDs, but Coats did a lot of dirty work, the heavy lifting, blocking and clearing space.

"When you have two guys who can be fresh, who can explode, who can get open and make plays ... well, and like I said, we've gotten a little comfortable around here with tight end play, and those guys have made it that way," Anae said.

The Cougar offense is based on what Anae calls a field attack. It was on display at its best in a 21-point fourth quarter at Utah, a day Harline and Coats saved for their best combined efforts.

Anae says Coats will get a chance to play at the next level. "There is no doubt in my mind. None at all. He is the prototype NFL tight end; 90 percent of what they do in that league is with the Daniel Coats-type tight end. And we are very fortunate to have one of them in Daniel."

Said Coats: "You want to be remembered on a good note. Go out with a bang."

In the season finale at Rice Eccles, Coats had six catches for 80 yards and a TD. He and Harline combined for 13 catches for 198 yards and four scores.

Coats said a year ago BYU was so happy to be in a bowl and having fun that when the game against Cal started, it was kind of a shock — there was a game. "This year we want to go there and win a game, not just be in a bowl game."

Coats said playing with Harline has made his senior season fun. "He's a great guy all around. He can run and he can catch and it's something to shoot for. He can run and catch better than me, and every day it's fun to go out there and try to keep up with Jonny in catches.

"I don't know if he does the same thing. I give him blocking tips, he gives me route tips. It's nice to have someone so when I'm not out there, I don't have to worry."

This is where it sometimes gets hairy with competing players on a team. There could be feelings. Disappointment. Discouragement. Some back-biting and sliding. Happens all the time.

Not with Coats. He's the real deal.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com