Editor's note: This story was published in the LDS Church News in 2009. With the recent hiring of Garrett Tujague to BYU's football coaching staff, a new opportunity to look back on the coaches' history has presented itself.
While quarterback Ty Detmer was playing through his stellar, Heisman Trophy-winning career at BYU, Garrett Tujague stood up for him as an offensive lineman.
The two spoke of their diverse paths to conversion during a recent telephone conference call with the Church News.
Brother Tujague of the Castaic Ward, Valencia California Stake, continues to enjoy football as head coach of the successful program at College of the Canyons in Valencia.
A native of northern California, he said he knew a lot of Latter-day Saint people growing up and saw a lot of friends go on missions. But he was happy and active in another faith.
As he was recruited to play football by several colleges, he said he was looking for "the typical college life of partying." But as he visited some schools on recruiting trips, he felt that "everything was so fake and so phony."
BYU was a late entry in the recruiting battle, but he made a visit.
"I walked on campus and it was unbelievable to me. It was a great, clean environment," he said.
He played for the Cougars for three seasons, 1989-91, and said he had a good time at BYU around good people doing good things. During that time he also met and married Cami Christoffersen.
He had a lot of friends join the Mormon Church at BYU, he said, and he questioned whether their motivation was to please an LDS girlfriend they wanted to marry. Looking back, he said that wasn't such a bad reason to investigate the Church.
But, for him, he said he felt like he was active in his own faith and was being a good person and taking care of his wife, "so why should I change?"
The path was different for his teammate and friend Ty Detmer, who is a counselor in the Young Men presidency of the Austin Texas Oak Hills Stake. He was baptized prior to his senior season at BYU in February 1991 and married Kim Herbert during the summer.
Brother Detmer said he wasn't aware of any Church members in his life before going to BYU.
"I got there and took it all in slowly," he said. "I learned a lot as I went. I had a lot of great examples around me."
He said he watched and listened to those people, noticed how they lived their lives and their activity with their families.
Referring to Brother Tujague's comment, he said, "People right away assume you join for a girl."
But for him, his future wife just "drew a line in the sand." She led him to take what he was already learning more seriously, to add deeper study and sincere prayer. As he looked closer at what Kim believed and her values, he found they were close to what he had already come to believe as he grew up.
While the quarterback and the offensive lineman were good friends at BYU, they went their separate ways after college.
With the influence of his wife and his BYU experience, Brother Tujague became active in the Church at about the time his first daughter, Savanah, was born 14 years ago, he said. He attended almost all meetings with his family through the years.
"I love taking my oldest daughter to seminary in the morning," he said, trying to be positive and influential about the Church along the way. He recalled one morning when Savanah said, "Dad, you're going full-Mormon on me!"
But, he said, as he looked at some of the men he most respected who had joined the Church, like Ty Detmer, he didn't feel that he measured up to their worthiness and that was one of the reasons he thought he shouldn't be baptized. He listened to the missionary discussions and set several baptismal dates, but something always derailed the process.
Things changed through a series of spiritual experiences during the past year, he said. One was when he found out the ward was going to get a new bishop. He said he went to his truck and prayed that if his friend Scott Muir was the next bishop he would know he could be worthy of holding the priesthood and honoring it.
In retrospect, he said he knows it's not right "to make deals with Heavenly Father." Nevertheless, when Brother Muir was called as the new bishop, Brother Tujague was determined to prepare and be baptized.
It turned out that he was able to schedule his baptism for the weekend that Dan Potter, a high councilor in the neighboring Santa Clarita California Stake, had arranged for Brother Detmer to speak at a youth fireside in his stake. Connections were made and Brother Detmer was able to attend the Castaic Ward sacrament meeting and stand in the confirmation circle.
Hearkening back to their college days, Brother Tujague said, "Ty makes people around him better. He uplifts people," not just on the football field but in life.
So he felt inspired that his former teammate should be there for the confirmation. "It was an honor to have him there," Brother Tujague said.
Richard L. Wirthlin, first counselor in the Santa Clarita California Stake presidency, said there was a strong spirit throughout the weekend as Brother Tujague was baptized and confirmed and as Brother Detmer spoke at the youth fireside as well as an additional fireside primarily for him to share his values with athletes and coaches of all faiths in the community.
Brother Tujague concluded by mentioning a countdown clock he has in his coaching office that marks the preparation leading up to each opponent. He said there is now a countdown clock on the refrigerator at home marking the time of preparation before he and his wife and their children — Savanah, Summer and Carson — will go to the temple to be sealed.
Email: [email protected]