I’ll do whatever (the coaches) want. I know playing as a linebacker the idea was to have me rush a lot more then we started dropping the linebackers a lot so it kind of took away my skill set. It’s smart moving me back down to the D-line then I can rush every time. I was happy the day they made that switch for me. —BYU defensive end Bronson Kaufusi
PROVO — While BYU senior Bronson Kaufusi is looking forward to spending more time at defensive end — his natural position — this season, there’s another reason why he’s happy about the switch from outside linebacker.
He’s spending more time with his dad, Steve Kaufusi, the Cougars’ longtime defensive line coach.
“I’m excited to be coached by him and be with him full-time this year. It’s been good,” Bronson said. “My whole life I’ve dreamed about him coaching me. Growing up, he never coached me in anything — not Junior Jazz, flag football, nothing. To be coached in college football has totally been a fun thing, something we’ve both cherished.”
“It’s been great. He makes me look good, let’s put it that way,” Steve said. “It’s been fun for me as a dad and as a coach. It’s been rewarding. Who knows? Maybe he’s getting tired of me. It’s been enjoyable for him and I. Off the field, we talk about things — even the brutal facts that he needs to hear. It’s been a good relationship for us.”
Bronson said his dad helps him play better.
“For me, I feel really fortunate because he knows me the best. With that, if a coach knows his player well, then he knows kind of the right buttons to push to get what he wants out of him.”
Up until about one year ago, it appeared another Kaufusi would join Steve and Bronson in the football program.
Steve’s son and Bronson’s brother, Corbin, who signed with BYU as a lineman before his LDS mission, grew to 6-foot-10 while serving in South Korea. Upon returning home, he started working out with the football team, as well as playing pick-up basketball.
Corbin ultimately decided to play hoops rather than football.
“He let me know probably a month and a half after he got home,” Steve said. “I didn’t know he was playing pick-up games. I think Bronson encouraged him to do that. Corbin would have had to put on 50 or 60 pounds to play football or he could possibly get some playing time with basketball.”
So Corbin joined coach Dave Rose’s basketball program. As a freshman center, Corbin averaged 16.5 minutes, 3.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 56 percent from the floor. He improved as the season went on and he will be counted on heavily this year. Through the firs three exhibition games during the team’s recently completed tour of Spain, Corbin averaged 6.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest.
Steve was disappointed he wouldn't have the chance to coach Corbin, but he knows it’s all worked out for the best.
“I miss him, but you’ve got to let your kids do what they want to do and find their passion and stick with it,” he said. “Just because I played football doesn’t mean I want all of my kids to play football. I tell them not to play because of me. I don’t want them to feel obligated. I want them to find something they want to do. When he said he wanted to play basketball, there was no hesitation on my part. I support him 100 percent. He fits that mold, body-wise. I’m happy for him.”
And, of course, Steve enjoys watching Corbin play, just like he enjoyed watching his daughter, Alexis, play for the BYU women’s basketball team several years ago.
“I love it. When I go (to the Marriott Center), I’m not a coach. I’m just a dad,” he said. “I love that part, to sit there and enjoy your kids, just like when they’re in Junior Jazz or in high school. It’s always fun to watch them and see their progress and see them be the best they can be. It’s fun as a dad to encourage them when they’re down and let them know that the sun will come up tomorrow and you have to keep fighting. It’s been rewarding, not just because they’re playing a sport, but there are life lessons along the way because they’re playing a sport.“
It appears Corbin's decision to trade football for basketball was a wise one.
“There’s always things you’re going to miss about stuff you leave behind, definitely," Corbin said earlier this year. "There’s stuff I miss about (playing football), but I’m really happy with the decision I made. The only regret would be that I didn’t get to play against my brother on the court or on the football field. We did one-on-one in the summer, but other than that, I’ll have to leave it for family home evenings.”
Bronson, who is 6-8, 257 pounds and played for the BYU basketball team as a freshman, had been looking forward to playing football with his brother. But he knows Corbin has found his place on the basketball court.
“He’s exactly where he needs to be. I’m happy he’s there,” said Bronson. “I worked out with him a lot over the summer. I’m excited for him. He’s made a lot of strides and he looks really good. I think he’s going to cause some damage out there.”
Meanwhile, Bronson is exactly where he needs to be, at defensive end — the position he played until coaches moved him to outside linebacker in the winter of 2014.
“I love being at defensive end. I always get to rush,” he said. “That’s what I like to do. It’s nice to go back and be there.”
In 37 career games, Bronson had recorded 103 tackles, 24 tackles-for-loss and 15.5 sacks. BYU is looking for him to put pressure on, and sack, opposing quarterbacks on a regular basis.
“I’ll do whatever (the coaches) want,” he said. “I know playing as a linebacker the idea was to have me rush a lot more then we started dropping the linebackers a lot so it kind of took away my skill set. It’s smart moving me back down to the D-line then I can rush every time. I was happy the day they made that switch for me.”
“He’s more natural with his hand down, especially in our scheme,” said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. “He looks more at home and he’s playing it really well.”
Steve said he is going to savor this final season coaching Bronson.
“I want to see him have a great year, be productive, know his role and stay healthy,” he said. “It’s a big thing to be a team leader and those are some of the things I want to see him do — and have fun.”
Meanwhile, the Kaufusi family will have fun cheering each other on, no matter the sport.