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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Micah Simon bear claws across the field during football practice at BYU in Provo on Monday, July 31, 2017.
Always strive to do more, do extra, push yourself to the limit, want to do the hard things in front of you. —BYU wide receiver Micah Simon

SALT LAKE CITY — It was the scene of what one BYU football player called The Grind.

And it has a new motto.

On the field north of BYU’s locker rooms this week were a dozen players running in a giant sandbox. On a sideline, tight end Matt Bushman, a bulked-up version of the freshman who started against LSU last season, was busy doing a chop-step drill where his feet rapidly drummed out a steady tattoo as he moved laterally as fast as he could. Other groups of a dozen here, a dozen there, were laboring over other drills, schemes, exercises.

A few yards away from the sand, Tanner Mangum joined other quarterbacks Joe Critchlow, Beau Hoge and Zach Wilson in operating a series of passing drills with running backs, receivers and tight ends. Mangum looked completely healed from his Achilles surgery last fall as he confidently threw bullets to targets that included incoming freshman All-State tight end Dallin Holker from Lehi working alongside Moroni Laulu-Pututau.

All the athletes were enjoying the sun on a bare chest kind of Tuesday before the rains came and washed out much of the week. They were also taking advantage of a larger workout window carved out of class time for spring semester. It allows a longer chunk of time for this self-directed, player-controlled informal practice following weight-lifting sessions and before they head off to classes or jobs.

“It’s good to run different routes and coverages and do it with the entire offense,” said receiver Micah Simon.

The previous week, before spring semester started, defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki made a formal presentation to the team of the theme/slogan/mantra BYU coaches wanted to take to heart for the rest of the offseason and when fall camp begins in August.

All teams like to adopt buzzwords that remind the squad of a thought, a premise, a challenge. It ends up on T-shirts, posters and hashtags on social media:

“Built Not Born.”

Simon said everyone has taken “Built Not Born” to heart so far.

“It’s an understanding that these skills, these different things they are teaching us, are not born inside of us, we have to learn them and build on them from the bottom up. We’re looking forward to the ride all summer right into September.”

It’s going to need the right attitude, he said.

Simon related the concept during a presentation he made to a youth football team last weekend in New York City when he explained to the players the difference between a zoo tiger and a wild tiger: one got fed, the other had to work to survive.

It’s based on the challenge to not expect things to be given to you.

“Always strive to do more, do extra, push yourself to the limit, want to do the hard things in front of you,” Simon said.

“A lot of guys are out here trying to get work done and if I have to run a few extra reps, it’s all good to increase my conditioning. It’s good to see all the new faces out here with us,” said Simon, who is impressed with the freshman Holker, a 6-foot-5, 222-pound speedster who caught 97 passes for 1,766 yards and 22 touchdowns at Lehi High despite missing two games as a senior.

“We’ll get those incoming freshmen coming in June but Holker is here now. I feel like he came in and helped right away. To have the size he has but to also be able to move the way he does will be a big addition to our offense. With the right coaching with Steve Clark and Jeff Grimes, I feel he can be a special player for us.”

Holker graduated in December and was planning to go on a mission, but decided to enroll, take spring classes and spend this fall competing for playing time.

“I’m excited for the new faces coming in and Dylan Collie will be here soon.”

"Built Not Born."

It seemingly fits with comments I’ve heard from Ed Lamb and Tuiaki the past year when talking about recruiting. They have been out to find the right metrics (size, speed, body type) in prospects, then engage them in productive development.

BYU has never been part of the recruiting scene where its signing classes have been laden with elite four- and five-star guys. They’ve had to build on what athletes they can get and push them into their potential by using smarter play, practicing with more efficiency and finesse. It has to be about the conversion of other strengths into heightened performances.

Anyway, this is the talk of the offseason.

It’s The Grind.