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Jaren Wilkey/BYU
BYU quarterback Joe Critchlow throws a pass during the Cougars' practice in the Indoor Practice Facility on BYU's campus in Provo on Thursday, March 14, 2019.

PROVO — BYU sophomore quarterback Joe Critchlow spent last season in relative obscurity, serving as a backup, standing on the sideline, signaling in plays.

While not playing last fall was a big disappointment for Critchlow, he spent his Christmas break in memorable fashion, starting the 2019 calendar year with a joyous, life-changing experience.

On Jan. 5, Critchlow got married in the Paris France Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His wife, Allie — the granddaughter of Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah — hails from Boston. She served a mission in France and Joe Critchlow learned French during his mission in Montreal.

The temple in Boston was closed in January.

“So we said, ‘Hey, why not? Let’s go to France,’” said Joe Critchlow, a Franklin, Tennessee, native. “It was small with family and close friends there. It was beautiful. I had never been to Paris before. We honeymooned there for a week before school started.”

The Critchlows had a long engagement, at least by BYU standards.

“We were engaged for eight months. Here in Provo, that was an eternity,” Critchlow said. "Everyone on the team was shocked about how long we were engaged for. It is a long time. All my friends in Tennessee were like, ‘Only eight months?’”

The couple were set up by one of his former mission companions.

“It was a member referral,” Critchlow said with a smile. “I got right home from my mission and my companion set us up. Usually, it doesn’t work out but I was blessed to meet someone really special and have it work out.”

As he participates in spring practices, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is hoping his football career works out, too.

As a true freshman in 2017, just months removed from his mission, Critchlow was thrown into the fire after injuries to Tanner Mangum and Beau Hoge. He won two of his three starts to end the season.

Critchlow completed for the starting job last spring but didn’t get much of a look during fall camp under new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes. Mangum won the starting job and was eventually replaced at midseason by freshman Zach Wilson. Critchlow didn’t take a snap in a game last year.

“In all honesty, it was extremely difficult. It’s always frustrating and challenging when you’re not on the field. I regard myself as a high competitor,” Critchlow said. “I love to be on the field, lead the team and lead the offense. Last year’s role of signaling was difficult. It was a different opportunity for me to grow and learn the offense. Of course, I wished I was out there playing.”

“He probably went through some tough times last season. He had high hopes of maybe being the starting quarterback,” said quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick. “After some initial disappointment, he regrouped. He made a good contribution to the team last year. He’s a team guy. He was ready to play every week. Our quarterbacks are heavily involved in our game-day operation. He was an important part of that. I would be disappointed in him if he wasn’t disappointed last year. I’m glad that he wasn’t happy about it. That’s a good thing. He’s a competitor. It will be interesting to see how he does.”

Critchlow admits that he considered transferring.

“Of course, it crossed my mind. Any competitive athlete, especially at quarterback, wants to be on the field and show what he has,” he said. “After my freshman year, when I was able to win a couple of games and gain some experience, that was something I thought about. But for now, BYU is the place for me. I want to give this team all I have to help us next season. Life sometimes throws you some twists and things you don’t expect. Of course, going into fall camp I had high hopes of playing a lot last year and it didn’t go my way. There were other quarterbacks that got that opportunity and performed really well. Going into the future, I’m looking for that same opportunity, hoping to lead BYU and win a lot of games here.”

With Wilson being limited as he recovers from shoulder surgery, Critchlow, redshirt freshmen Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney have been taking the snaps during spring ball.

“Any opportunity that a quarterback has to show what he can do in a team setting to lead the (first-team offense) is a big opportunity,” Critchlow said. “I don’t know the extent of how much it will play going into fall camp or next season. I’m looking forward to competing with Zach moving forward.”

Grimes has installed an offense that is geared for a dual-threat quarterback while Critchlow is a pro-style quarterback.

“Hopefully, I’ll be able to adapt to this offense. I believe the talents that I have can be showcased in this offensive system,” Critchlow said. “Obviously, it’s different from systems I’ve played in in the past. But it’s something I feel that I can adapt to.”

Jaren Wilkey/BYU
Quarterback Joe Critchlow looks to throw during BYU scrimmage Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Critchlow enjoys his relationship with Hall and Baylor Romney.

“Jaren and Baylor and I are great friends. We bonded on the sidelines and we had a lot of great moments, from winning at Wisconsin and there was a feeling that our team was shifting. We had a winning record. It was a lot better than my freshman year.”

“We spent a lot of time together on the sideline together, signaling in plays," Hall said. "We had some good laughs together. I got to know Joe really well, and all of the quarterbacks for that matter. There’s a lot of camaraderie. We’re all brothers and we’re all working toward the same purpose to win games.”

Though it was a tough season, there were plenty of positives Critchlow can draw on from last season. Newly married and enjoying the chance to take reps in the spring, for Critchlow, hope springs eternal.

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“I became a lot closer to my teammates. It was probably the first time I realized that those relationships are a big part of college football,” he said. “I was frustrated with some of the situation I was in but I had a lot of great friends on the team and wonderful support all around me that helped me get through it and I have a positive outlook on last season and going into the future as well.”

By the way, are Baylor Romney and wide receiver Gunner Romney related to his wife?

“I think they’re seventh cousins,” Critchlow said. “There are a lot of Romneys in the church.”