PROVO — BYU's first scored touchdown of the year was likely met with a lot of cheers from Cougar fans, followed immediately with those same fans checking their rosters. No, the first BYU player to cross the goal line against Arizona wasn't someone readily recognizable to most.
The player was walk-on fullback Brayden El-Bakri, who has played a key role in offensive coordinator Ty Detmer's new pro-style system.
El-Bakri, whose last name is Iraqi, joined the BYU program as a preferred walk-on out of Brighton High in 2012. He redshirted his first year, before embarking on a mission to Uruguay for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When El-Bakri joined the program, the fullback position played a big role in what BYU did. While on his mission, the offense changed under offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who ticketed El-Bakri for scout team duties and special teams work as a freshman in 2015. Now the fullback position is back, under the new coaching staff, with El-Bakri rising to become a regular contributor.
"Just the luck of the dice that the fullback position came back," El-Bakri said. "I would have helped wherever coaches wanted, but it's great to have a position I know I can play being used again."
El-Bakri looks every part of a fullback at 6 feet, 235 pounds.
"Brayden is a player, and he's earned his spot," said running backs coach Reno Mahe. "He's doing a great job, and he's also a very smart player — smart beyond his years with understanding the game of football."
El-Bakri is rotating in and out with starter Algernon Brown.
As for scoring BYU's first touchdown of the year during the second quarter of BYU's 18-16 win over Arizona, it's a moment El-Bakri won't soon forget.
"It was pretty exhilarating, that's for sure," El-Bakri said. "When I got the call I was just excited for the chance. We'd practiced the play quite a bit, I knew I had a great line in front of me, and yeah, I was just happy for the opportunity to help the team."