PROVO — Reno Mahe is torn between pulling for his former Philadelphia Eagles over the New England Patriots because the latter start former Cougar Kyle Van Noy at middle linebacker.
The Eagles and Pats square off Sunday in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis at U.S. Bank Stadium.
But he understands the energy produced by this rematch of participants from the 2005 Super Bowl. It has been more than a decade since Mahe, recently released as BYU’s running backs coach, played running back and special teams for the Eagles.
This week, Mahe spoke on myriad issues about the Super Bowl and his former team, including comparing Eagles fans to BYU fans.
Mahe once was chided in Newsweek for saying the Eagles should be Super Bowl champions if it was proven true that the Patriots cheated by filming play signals leading up to Super Bowl XXXIX. “Our defensive coordinator Jim Johnson believed they cheated,” said Mahe.
“Hey, if you get caught cheating in the Tour de France, you have your title stripped from you. In the NFL you get fined. Come on, man.
“I have no idea if that is something that happens all the time in the NFL, but if it did and it was against the rules, shouldn’t we have been declared champions?” Mahe said of the 2005 game.
Philadelphia fans are known for being rabid, passionate fanatics that, at times, push the boundaries of sanity. A video of an Eagles fan crashing into a subway train platform pylon after defeating the Vikings in the NFC title game went viral two weeks ago. It was symbolic of something about that city and the craziness of its patrons over their beloved team.
Mahe says he sees similarities in Eagles fans and BYU fans.
“The majority are some of the most loyal fans you will ever meet. I’ve met both Eagle and BYU fans and most of them are dedicated and true through wins and losses.
“But just like some Eagle fans, you have some BYU fans that are very unreasonable and can get mean and nasty. I saw some of that in some Cougar fans this past year when we really struggled.
“I guess it might be like that everywhere, but those are the two fan bases I’ve had the most experience with and I don’t see much difference.”
Mahe became a popular Eagle not so much for his 1,600 return yards during a five-year career, but by serving as a part-time host at a South Philly pub called Chickie’s & Pete’s Café. Mahe got to know fans very well and earned $7 an hour.
Vai Sikahema, another Tongan who played for the Eagles, put it this way: "Fans here love the underdog," Sikahema said. "That's why the movie 'Rocky' remains so popular because these people relate. They pull for the flat-footed underachiever who's battling the world to get ahead."
Mahe is adjusting to life outside of coaching football. He was told he would no longer coach at BYU right after the game at Hawaii. “It’s been a positive for me and my family to tell you the truth. My oldest son is 18 and my youngest is 2. Time goes by so fast; soon my 2-year-old will be 18. I’m fine.
“What I take away from my two years coaching is a great admiration for those who have made it their life; that they are so dedicated and work so hard. I really credit them for all they do and what they go through. They are amazing.”
And what are his thoughts of Kalani Sitake, who in essence fired him before reorganizing BYU’s offensive staff during the holidays?
“I love Kalani Sitake,” Mahe said. “He is awesome and I’ll always be indebted to BYU. The two years I had there was a blessing and so it is with the change. Things are great. There are a lot of great people out there who have given me a great opportunity.
“If you want to be a college coach and have your family protected, BYU is the place for you. But at this time, for me, this is the best thing for me and my family, to not be in coaching, even with as much fun as I had and the love I have for my players.”
So, who is Mahe picking come Sunday afternoon? Pats or Eagles?
“Here’s the hard part. As much as I love my former team, I love my Cougars. I’m torn between Kyle Van Noy and the Eagles and the opportunity they gave me. I’m just hoping for a good game and good food. I still have a little bit of a bone to pick with the Patriots.”