Like most Utah hoopsters, Gordon Jolley, 51, dreamed he would be an NBA star.
After all, the 6-foot-5 Jolley was a prep All-America his senior year (1967) in basketball at Granite High and had more basketball scholarship offers than either football or baseball. He spent his sophomore year at Cyprus High in 1964 and two years at Granite, where he started in all three sports football, basketball and baseball all three years. He was all-state his last two years in those sports.
But reality, or at least waking up from his basketball dream, soon set in. "It was then I realized that I had a better chance going into the NFL as a tight end than in the NBA," Jolley said. "So, I turned down those basketball scholarships and enrolled at Utah to play football.
"As a freshman, I played both tight end and defensive end. I loved it. But coach Bill Meek and his staff turned me into an offensive tackle for the next three years. I wasn't too happy about that, either. I almost went back to basketball. But I didn't."
It's for the Utes, as well as the NFL's Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks, that he didn't go back to basketball, either. He became an all-WAC performer and made Utah's All-Century team. He also became Detroit's starting offensive tackle for three of his five years with the team. In 1975, owing to a knee injury, Jolley went to the expansion Seahawks for two more years.
The most important thing Jolley did was graduate from Utah, which paved the way for him to go into coaching at West High under coach Gean Plaga in 1982 and at West Jordan in 1983-84. He said those were solid experiences.
"Getting my education was important to me," Jolley said. "Playing football taught me to be very competitive, and by obtaining my degree, it taught me lessons about what is important to be successful in life."
In 1984, Jolley embarked on his 16-year journey to Dixie College to become the Rebels' baseball coach and assistant to Greg Croshaw in football. His baseball teams won the Region 19 championship four years and played in the Junior College World Series twice, in 1989 and 1995. He also was the chairman of Dixie College's Physical Education Department for five years.
While Jolley has assisted Croshaw, the Rebels have won 12 Scenic West championships. During five seasons they have been ranked No. 2 in the nation, three times No. 3 and 10 times in the top 10.
"Gordon is the best line coach I've ever been around," said former Miami Dolphin star Bruce Hardy, who assisted the Rebels for four years. "I really respect him, not only as a coach but as a great person, too."
Jolley and his wife, Jean, raised five children. All but one, Doug, who plays tight end at BYU, have college degrees. Doug, a junior, will get his degree in economics in May. He redshirted one year. Like his dad, Doug had a position change after his freshman year. He was a quarterback at Dixie High before his switch to the line, but he said he doesn't mind. At tight end for BYU, he can wear number 86, in honor of his dad, who wore the number for three years at Cyprus and Granite.
"Jean and I are very happy," Gordon Jolley said. "But we're more proud of what our children have accomplished than anything I ever did."
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