PROVO — With the football team taking a bye week, it’s time to investigate one of the major mysteries surrounding BYU sports.
No, not the disappearance of the Cougars' offense.
The conundrum we're examining is this: Who in the heck is Boney Fuller?
If that name isn’t familiar to you, then you probably don’t have a Twitter account.
And if you are one of @boneyfuller's 13,000-plus followers on Twitter, or have seen @boneyfuller’s work on the popular social media site, he’s probably either made you laugh out loud or infuriated you.
Given the Cougars' dismal 1-3 start to the season, @boneyfuller is providing some BYU fans with a way to smile amid their tears.
While @boneyfuller is a satirical account that revolves mostly around BYU sports, the original Boney Fuller was a former Cougar football player. According to the BYU football media guide, Boney Fuller lettered at BYU from 1922-1926.
A couple of BYU fans turned his evocative name into an enigmatic Twitter handle that launched in August 2014. They enjoy good-naturedly skewering BYU opponents, opposing fan bases and opposing players.
Leading up to last September’s first-ever meeting between BYU and West Virginia at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, for example, @boneyfuller lampooned a West Virginia tourism video, featuring plenty of footage of people riding pigs, that’s been viewed more than 89,000 times.
Even Mountaineer fans responded positively.
“How is this guy cranking out high quality dank memes about WVU. I want BYU in the Big 12 for @boneyfuller alone,” tweeted @McBeeWVU.
One of the inspirations behind @boneyfuller is @FauxPelini (Fake Bo Pelini), a parody account owned by an anonymous Nebraska fan living in Chicago. It has about 584,000 followers. When the Cougars played the Cornhuskers a couple of years ago, @boneyfuller and @FauxPelini exchanged messages.
The people behind the @boneyfuller account granted the Deseret News a rare interview, but it was done via email, of course, to protect @boneyfuller’s anonymity.
DESERET NEWS: Could you give us some background information about your life? Why are you known as “Boney?” What were your highlights at BYU in the early 1920s? What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishments? Hobbies? Is there a Mrs. Boney Fuller? For a guy born around the turn of the century, you seem to be pretty good with technology. How do you do it?
@boneyfuller: Well, I’m not actually Boney Fuller. He died a long time ago. I’m surprised you didn’t know that. Boney isn’t just one guy at all. I think most fans of the account must kind of intuitively get that. There’s just too much content for a single individual to produce on his own. The truth is that “Boney Fuller” is actually a couple of friends that privately come up with goofs and then share the best (e.g., the ones that aren't too mean) on Twitter. As a couple of thirty-somethings, the technology aspect has definitely been the easiest part.
Honestly, we chose the name Boney Fuller because he was the guy with the funniest sounding name on BYU’s first collegiate football team in 1922. In hindsight, as people have sent us information about the real Boney Fuller over the years, the decision to choose Boney seems prescient. He was by all accounts a pretty hilarious guy. For instance, in his time at BYU — and again, remember this is the 1920s — he dressed up as a woman and participated in the Mrs. BYU pageant. We had no idea when we picked the name.
DN: Why did you start the account?
@BF: As mentioned, Boney consists of a couple of friends. For as long as we’ve known each other, we’ve spent a good deal of our time just trying to make each other laugh. And when football season rolls around, because we are obviously die-hard college football fans, our focus has often naturally drifted toward the Cougars and whatever team they were playing that week. At some point we thought, “You know what? Maybe the outside world might appreciate some of this stuff, too.”
DN: How many people know your identity?
@BF: Only a few family and friends know Boney's identity.
DN: How much time do you spend during football season producing content?
@BF: I'd say we collectively spend a couple hours a week. We all have full-time real jobs. It's just something we do in our free time.
DN: What's it like to be an internet celebrity?
@BF: To the small extent that Boney really is an internet celebrity, it’s been a lot of fun. For the most part, BYU fans and non-BYU fans alike have been incredibly cool about Boney Fuller. Simple things like seeing a Boney T-shirt around town, or seeing Boney’s face looking back at you from the student section on ESPN, or sitting in Vivint Smart Home Arena and hearing the ROC chant the “We are Farmers” jingle while Utah State shoots free throws have all been pretty incredible experiences.
DN: What tweets are you most proud of? Which have received the biggest reaction?
@BF: Anytime the opposing team’s fans or players are in on the joke, and laugh along with BYU fans, that’s always sort of a proud moment. I guess a few of those that immediately spring to mind would probably be the “We are Farmer’s” jingle, the tourism videos, and the West Virginia pig-tracker. In all those instances, it seemed like both fan bases had a lot of fun with the tweets.
Probably the thing we are most proud of is being a part of something that BYU fans care about. For better or worse, BYU fans have a reputation. Some of that reputation is earned, for sure, but a lot of it has to do with people unfairly assuming that BYU fans have to fit a certain mold, or act a certain way. It’s great to be able to play a small part in showing the world a different side.
DN: What was it like interacting this season with the fan bases of LSU and Wisconsin?
@BF: The more secure the school's place in the college football landscape, the more comfortable they are with a few jokes at their expense. While Nebraska fans will probably always be the gold standard, LSU fans in particular — and even SEC fans that caught wind after the cookie monster video — were absolutely incredible to interact with.
DN: Who created the Boney Fuller logo, not to mention the T-shirts and sweatshirts with the Boney Fuller logo?
@BF: One of the account’s early followers, @SeanNavarro, created it and we thought it was pretty great so we asked if we could use it. He’s a really talented guy.
DN: What's been your favorite interaction with an opponent fan base and/or player?
@BF: I will say that while most teams have been great, far and away, the best fan bases to interact with have been Nebraska and West Virginia. By way of example, Nebraska’s official account played along with some jokes and there were a few Husker fan blogs that reached out about writing articles about Boney and highlighting the tweets they enjoyed the most.
It’s not an easy thing to see your team get mocked a little and be a good sport about it, but both the Cornhuskers and the Mountaineers were incredible.
DN: Do you get a lot of hate mail (tweets) from Ute fans?
@BF: Honestly, most Ute fans have been pretty great about it considering what Boney does, but there are obviously a few that don’t appreciate it. A lot of Utes follow the account and most realize that we are trying to keep it all in good fun. I think the angriest Ute fans would be surprised to know how many Ute players have either reached out through DM to ask to “be next” or to give props for a joke they appreciated.
DN: Do you see yourself as the BYU version of Nebraska's @FauxPelini?
@BF: Obviously @FauxPelini is a huge inspiration. When BYU played Nebraska in 2015, @FauxPelini followed, and reached out via DM. We were able to chat back and forth a little during the week leading up to the game and he was incredibly gracious. He’s hilarious and he created one of the most memorable characters on Twitter. I think a big part of what makes him so great — and what we try to emulate with Boney — is that @FauxPelini is OK making himself and the Huskers the butt of the joke occasionally. Self-deprecation is a really endearing form of comedy.
For instance, tweets like this one are, at least in part, @FauxPelini-inspired.
DN: Do a lot of people block you on Twitter, particularly famous people that you might tweet at?
@BF: It’s hard to say. If they do block, I don’t notice too often. I know for sure that a few of the local radio guys have.
DN: As long as you maintain this account, do you intend to remain anonymous?
@BF: Boney Fuller will always remain anonymous. If people saw what boring, normal guys we are in real life, it would probably ruin Boney for them. We just prefer Boney being known as Boney.