These four years have gone by really fast. It’s sad, really. I’m excited to be with my teammates, but it is also a sad time. —Tejan Koroma
PROVO — Tejan Koroma, BYU football’s silent captain.
It’s been years since Koroma has given an interview, almost unheard of for a leader of a Cougar offense. But he prefers not to do those media things. This week he broke protocol and went on Kalani Sitake’s weekly TV show on BYUtv, perhaps because his college career is down to just two games, the final home game and Senior Day is Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
To deal with the quiet ones, to pay tribute to their career, you have to go to folks that can fill in the void. For this purpose, I went to his girlfriend, JessiKate Riley, the reigning Miss Utah; his position coach, Mike Empey; and Jordan Pendleton, his personal trainer who helped chisel his massive body,
Koroma is a massive hulk with bulging arms and a lightning smile. He is one powerful human being and playing center on BYU’s offense, he’ll make his 50th straight start, which is a remarkable feat. He has avoided serious injury, showed great durability, and has beaten out every challenger in the program since he was a freshman.
“Tejan is a people person. He knows how to work with people and that’s why he’s such a great teammate,” said Riley. “Not only do people look up to him because he’s so good and a great player, but he is genuinely friends with everyone on the team.”
Riley said Tejan’s personality drives him.
“He’s trying to graduate in economics in April and that is hard for most athletes to do — graduate in four years," she said. "He’s taking straight economics classes right now, working hard, is super busy, works out, practices, gets with his tutor and is really driven. He wants to go to the NFL but it is important for him to get a degree.”
Riley first met Tejan during their freshman year in a Book of Mormon class. Tejan sat next to Riley and teased her all the time. “We were good friends but never hung out. Then one weekend my brother’s Scout group was out at one of the games and he asked me if I could arrange for Tejan to give some autographs.”
She asked, and he was so embarrassed. “I’ll do it if you let me take you on a date,” said Koroma.
They've dated the past two years. JessiKate performed a violin solo for the national anthem at BYU’s season opener against Portland State in LaVell Edwards Stadium. Riley visited Koroma’s family in Dallas this summer. “His mother and sisters are the sweetest human beings you’ll ever meet,” she said.
Koroma’s mother, a native of Sierra Leone, met LDS missionaries shortly after moving to Texas and joined the Mormon faith before Koroma was born.
Empey doesn’t know how Koroma will rank among the great centers, but with his 50th career start, that’s as many as anybody who's played at BYU. “It’s consistency over time,” said Empey of his center.
Koroma’s durability has been amazing.
“He’s in shape, he’s big and strong and I think that helps,” said Empey. “They all do the same workout but sometimes you just get a durable person and he’s a strong, physical, durable person.”
Empey said he’d like to have Koroma for another four years. “He’s a leader, he sets an example, he’s very business-minded and takes his responsibilities seriously even with his academic work.”
Empey has loaded up Koroma with a lot of responsibilities. He directs the blocking assignments and calls out the schemes in the run game for the offense. “He kind of has to know what everyone is doing, that’s the job of a center. Being there as a senior, everyone on the unit counts on him, is used to him and relies on him. We’ll fully realize what he’s meant to us when he’s gone because we’ll miss his presence.”
This season, Koroma has gone against the best.
“He’s been consistent,” said Empey of how he’s graded Koroma. “Internally we have an offensive lineman of the week award within our group and he’s earned that four or five times.”
In a year-round effort to be his best, Koroma is known for his dedication to keeping his body fit and ready for battle.
“I’d say Tejan is one of the most impressive athletes I’ve ever trained as far as his size, the leverage he has and plays with on the field, and how well he moves at that size,” said Pendleton. “He is 300 pounds of solid muscle but he moves as a smaller skilled guy. He is just a workhorse in the weight room. He never gets tired and he always has a positive attitude as well.
“He’s a great athlete but even a greater person,” he continued. “He’s had no major injuries, hopefully, he stays that way. It all goes back to how well he moves. He’s an exceptional athlete who plays in the trenches and goes against the opponents’ biggest player every play. He’s double-teaming people. He’s a special athlete indeed.”
Come Saturday, Tejan will play on the LES turf for the last time. He’ll get his senior blanket and head to the locker room for the last time.
“It will be crazy,” he told BYUtv. “These four years have gone by really fast. It’s sad, really. I’m excited to be with my teammates, but it is also a sad time.”
We’ll have to wait and see if he’ll do an interview — win or lose — after the battle with UMass.
It would be nice for the Silent Captain to say a few parting words on what has certainly been a remarkable career.