PROVO Kellen Fowler grew up envisioning himself as a BYU quarterback. It made sense, considering he is the son of a former Cougar QB, Blaine Fowler.
After playing quarterback all the way through high school, Fowler found himself faced with a difficult decision. He was recruited by the Air Force Academy as a quarterback, and he was recruited by the Cougars as a safety.
"That decision weighed heavy on me," Fowler remembered. "I had always dreamed of throwing touchdown passes."
Now, years later, Fowler is a senior and BYU's starting free safety. "When it came right down to it, I think defense is a better fit for me," he said. "I've really found a home over here in the defensive backfield."
Not only that, but free safety is, in a way, the quarterback of the defense.
"It's sort of like that," Fowler said. "I don't know if you can compare it exactly, but as far as the vocal, pre-snap stuff, it's similar. The free safety in our defense has a significant role as far as making play-calls for the defense, making checks, to make sure our defense is the strongest to face the different formations and sets that we see."
With BYU's defense breaking in several new players, Fowler is saddled with an important job. Coach Bronco Mendenhall explained what Fowler brings to the Cougar 'D.'
"Intelligence. We can't play defense in this system without that player getting us lined up," he said. "Kellen's position is responsible for the calls. There's just a calm back there. The players know that he knows exactly what to do and why. They look to him, and he has the right answers. That, maybe even more than playmaking ability, his role and ability to do that is primary in that spot."
For Fowler, BYU football is something he's been passionate about since birth. It's in his blood.
"My grandparents volunteer here at the Student-Athlete Building," Fowler explained. "My dad played football here, and he met my mother here while she was a Cougarette. I was born in San Diego at the 1983 Holiday Bowl. You could say I've been growing up to do this. It's a great opportunity, and I'm loving every minute."
Fowler wears the same number his dad did when he played at BYU in the 1980s. "I wear No. 16 because he wore No. 16," he said. "When I got back from my mission, I decided that I would want to honor the tradition and legacy of our family name by picking up where he left off and try to keep up the tradition."
As a youngster, Kellen learned the game from his dad.
"It was nice growing up in a football home," Kellen said. "As far back as I could remember we were talking about how to dissect a cover-two defense over Sunday dinner. My family is definitely a football-crazed family. That breeds a deep love for the game. Some players may view fall camp as a torture you have to get through. I really love it. I don't think you can beat being out here in Provo, with the beautiful mountains around, and having the opportunity to play a game I just love. It's been a great thing to be trained to play this game and to have the opportunity to do it at BYU. I'm very fortunate and very grateful."
While Blaine Fowler never started at BYU, he was involved in one of the biggest games in school history. During the Holiday Bowl in 1984, when the Cougars were vying for a national championship, Fowler played well in relief of an injured Robbie Bosco. Bosco returned and helped lead BYU to a win over Michigan.
Blaine Fowler was Bosco's backup for two years and Kellen has learned valuable lessons from his dad's career.
"To this day he and Robbie are great friends. Growing up, I called him 'Uncle Robbie,'" Kellen said. "It teaches you that there's more to football and team than just needing to be the starter, needing to be the All-Star. There are greater things in life than football success. Granted, I love the opportunity I have to play and I'm excited to be a starter this year and make an impact on the team. But if something were to happen and things were to change, I need to be able to support the team in whatever capacity I can. Seeing him do that has been a great example to me."
THUMBS-UP FROM BRONCO: Mendenhall said Tuesday's practice "was the sharpest of camp to this point. I think it was the most physical, the most competitive, and execution on both sides was the highest. I feel very good about today's practice. It was the best so far of this camp."
What did his players do that made it such a positive session?
"The urgency of knowing their assignments have to be sound, their technique has to be sound and time is running out," Mendenhall said.
"So rather than seeing the end in sight as relief, I think it's just the opposite. There's more of an urgency ... Every play seems to matter."
DENNEY MOVING UP: Mendenhall said defensive lineman Brett Denney has all but wrapped up the starting job over Ian Dulan, who continues to miss practice due to a shoulder injury. Mendenhall has not been pleased with the way Dulan has been working in rehab.
"There's very little difference between he and Brett," Mendenhall said. "Brett doesn't miss a day and handles all of his obligations responsibly. I would say it's more than probable (that Denney will start)."SCRIMMAGE TODAY: BYU will hold its final scrimmage of fall camp today. The emphasis of the scrimmage will be on younger players and special teams, Mendenhall said. Almost all of the starters are expected be held out of this scrimmage.
BYU camp central
First down: BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall called Monday's practice the best of fall camp to this point. The Cougars worked on two-minute offense, overtime and goal-line situations.
Head-turner: Safety David Tafuna turned in some solid plays, batting the ball away from tight end Dennis Pitta. Andrew George hauled in a couple of nice catches.Injury report: Offensive lineman Tom Sorensen will undergo diagnostic shoulder surgery next week. Mendenhall is hopeful that Sorensen will be able to contribute at some point this season.