Brad Rock, photo provided by Deseret News. Click here for Rock's Deseret News profile.
BYU football players will report to fall camp tomorrow to begin intense preparations for the upcoming season. While you're waiting (30 days exactly, but who's counting?) for the Cougars to take on Virginia, pick up a copy of Deseret News columnist Brad Rock's newly-revised collection of stories from BYU football history. The book, Tales from the BYU Cougars Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Cougar Stories Ever Told, reveals unique memories and hilarious anecdotes about players like Jim McMahon and Steve Young, and coaches like LaVell Edwards and Bronco Mendenhall.
I chatted with Brad Rock about his stories, and he offered a glimpse of what's in store for the reader.
Why will people want to pick up a copy? Is there anything that will surprise a big fan?
“I think that they'll like the stuff on Max Hall (former BYU and Arizona Cardinals quarterback). I won't give all of that away, but there's some stuff on Max Hall and his hating on Utah. They'll get the whole story on what was behind that, how long he was thinking about it, and what spurred it. So that will interest both BYU and Utah fans. I think the best thing is just the sense of humor these guys have … A lot of them are really good guys but it doesn't mean you can't be funny.”
I'm sure you have a lot of favorite stories, but what's one of your favorite anecdotes?
“Tom Holmoe (BYU's athletic director) told a story. When he was in college, he and Dan Plater (former BYU wide receiver) were on the football team, and they had a test coming up. I think it was on a Monday. It was a vertebrate zoology class or something like that. And they were wondering how they were going to study for this test because they had a game in Hawaii. Plater had figured out how to get into the lab after hours … so what he does is take a gym bag the night before they go to Hawaii and goes in and steals a couple turtles and a shark and stuffs them in the gym bag … and flew it to Hawaii. And then Plater and Tom got to their rooms and they just opened the gym bag, laid the shark out on the table in their room and dissected the shark. And according to Tom, they aced the test. That was bringing your homework.”
What was the most challenging part of collecting the stories and writing the book?
“I think the hardest part about it was the last chapter [I added for the revision]. The challenges were reaching the people and having access to the people. When I did the book the first time 10 years before, I just set things up and called the coaches at BYU and I'd go down and there and just talk to them … Now you have to go through different layers to get to the athletes.”
What did you enjoy most about the process?
“The most enjoyable part was getting to know those people I had only known on a really peripheral basis or not known at all, like Jan Jorgensen (former BYU football player, current MMA fighter). I'd known him beforehand but I got to sit and really talk to him. I saw a side of Max Hall I didn't know at all. He made me laugh and I thought he was a funny guy. And he talked in the book about that I-hate-Utah thing, and he said people need to lighten up and it's only a football game. I thought he was pretty spot on about that. He's just a guy that doesn't like his rival.”
What do you hope readers will get out reading this collection of stories?
“I'm hoping they'll be entertained, that it will make them smile and that they'll have a sense of what it would be like if they had the access I did. It's like if they went out with the former players or a coach and just got to talk to them over lunch and ask them, 'Who was the nuttiest guy you ever played with? Who was the most intense guy you ever played with?' I'm hoping those are the kind of stories that are in the book, because not everybody can do that.”
Is there anything you wish you could have included but didn't?
“There were just a few players that I wanted to talk to that I wasn't able to get a hold of. And the one thing that I didn't have that I really wished I would have had was some Ziggy Ansah (current Detroit Lions defensive end) stuff. He came on out of nowhere … and I don't think it was until the combines in Indiana that he really burst onto the scene. And by the time that happened, I had my chapter done and couldn't do anything on Ziggy."
What are you expectations for the 2013 season and its challenging schedule?
“I think this year it could be as a good as a seven- or eight-win season, but not better. Unless they play very well, I think they could end up in a five-win season. It's the most interesting season they've had because of the big games.”
Brad Rock became a sportswriter when he took a full-time sports job to avoid covering beats like the water conservatory district or the legislature after graduating in mass communications from the University of Utah. Before he became a columnist for the Deseret News in 1994, Rock covered everything from little league baseball to high school sports, Utah State football, BYU basketball, boxing, and the Jazz.