What foreign country may have had the biggest impact on BYU football at present?
It’s all about Chile, that South American country located along a narrow strip of land with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Andes Mountains on the other. It’s got BYU’s number.
Take star tight end Matt Bushman. Chile was where he spent two years of his life on an LDS mission after a high school career in Tucson, Arizona, before showing up at BYU. It is also where former starting quarterback Tanner Mangum served, as did tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau.
Both Laulu-Pututau and Bushman will sit out spring practice, which begins next month. Bushman played half of last season with a torn labrum and a broken thumb and had surgery on his shoulder in January. Pututau underwent ACL surgery following an injury at Washington.
Tight end coach Steve Clark believes he will have plenty of bodies to work with in March and come fall camp, the roster will be deep even with the departure of freshman Dallin Holker for two years of missionary service to — you got it — Chile. Holker departs for his mission in April.
On the 2018 team, players who also did mission service in Chile include linebacker Adam Pulsipher, kicker Skyler Southham and tight end Nate Heaps.
When Holker, a freshman from Lehi, delayed his mission plans for a year to get in one season with the Cougars and end up with a bowl game win for the experience, he had plenty of guys in the team room with Clark who could tell him of life in Chile.
To get the very latest from Chile, Holker can talk to native Texan Jake Oldroyd, a kicker who just returned from his mission to that country. Today, another tight end, Ben Tuipulotu, and running back Jackson McChesney are in Chile just finishing up their second year of service.
Among the first LDS missionaries in Chile was legendary preacher and orator Parley P. Pratt, who arrived in Valparaiso in November 1851. And no, he did not play football.
There are 10 LDS missions in Chile, four of them in Santiago, two in Concepcion.
Clark said he is in contact with Laulu-Pututau almost daily, gauging his rehabilitation and recovery from serious knee surgery. “He is ahead of schedule right now and doing fantastic. I probably see him more than he wants,” laughed Clark. “But tough beans for him.”
“Matt played tough with his injuries and most people didn’t know about it when he was making those catches at Utah and in the bowl game. He played injured almost all season.”
With Bushman, Laulu-Pututau, Hank Tuipulotu, Addison Pulsipher, JJ Nwigwe, Benjamin Ward and Nate Heaps back for fall, Clark said his room will be full.
“My mission is going to be keeping them all happy, but that tends to work itself out.”9 comments on this story
Traditionally, the “catching” tight end has been a big play item in BYU football’s last 40 years. In 2018 Bushman and Holker had 29 and 19 receptions collectively for a combined 746 yards and three touchdowns.
In 2019, it would be well for Clark to lobby harder for his position to get at least 100 catches, 130 targets, hopefully for production over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. It could be argued that receiver Talon Shumway did get targeted in plays that could have gone to a tight end position.
The use of the tight ends, especially with seeing how productive Bushman was in the final two games and at Boise State, will be a development to watch this spring and fall while Bushman and Laulu-Pututau heal.