I began a BYU sports fan summertime pet project. The goal was to decide which BYU player gets to stake their claim at being the all-time best to ever wear that number across all the sports, male and female.
As a disclaimer, I must admit that I am weaker in my knowledge of some sports. However, I tried to make adjustments for this knowledge deficit by researching and investigating individual accolades awarded to athletes in all sports with assigned numbers. If you feel injustice has occurred. I'm genuinely eager to listen to arguments via the comment section.
For all parts of the series, click here.
#26 Scott Arellano
Scott Arellano just put in a great senior season that included an 81-yard record-breaking bomb. Think about that, the Cougars punted from their own 6 and the the opponent started its next drive on its own 13. He didn't just possess a powerful leg, he was also accurate. Arellano placed the foes inside their own 20 a whopping 25 times in 2015. That's nearly twice a game! Its rare to feel like a punter is a difference maker, but Arellano was in 2015.
Rod Wilkerson was a steady wideout who finished his BYU career with 937 yards and 4 TDs.
Steve Ogden played RB for the Cougars in the 1960s. Rushed for 403 yards, caught an additional 399 yards and had 7 total TDs.
#27 Cory Snyder
Snyder was named an All-American 3-times while at BYU. He was a key player on the Cougars 1983 baseball team that played their way to a #1 ranking at one point that season. In Snyder's first game with the Y, on his first 3 at-bats, he hit 3 homers on 3 consecutive pitches. He hit a blistering career average of .428, 73 HRs, 247 RBIs over his three seasons in Provo.
As a junior, Snyder played in the 1984 Summer Olympics where he earned a Silver Medal.
He would go on to play in the majors for 8 seasons. In 1987, Cory hit 33 HRs and 82 RBIs for the Cleveland Indians.
Owen Pochman holds the record for longest field goal in school history with a 56-yarder. A finalist for the Lou Groza award in both his Junior and Senior years. He hit 66-91 field goals for 72.5% and 135-139 on PATs for a total of 333 points -- the all-time BYU record.
#28 Peter Van Valkenburg
"Fleet Pete" Van Valkenburg is one of the best running backs in BYU history. He was honored as a 2nd-team All-American in 1972. In fact, his 1972 season is one of the very finest individual seasons ever. Fleet Pete rushed for 1,386 yards on 6 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns. Only 2001 Luke Staley has put in a better single rushing season.
#29 Jamal Willis
Over 4 seasons, Jamal Willis was a steady force in the Cougar backfield. Racking up 2,970 yards and 35 TDs, both 3rd all-time. Willis is joined by Harvey Unga and Curtis Brown as the only players to have at least two 1,000-yard seasons.
#30 Lee Cummard
2008 MWC Player of the Year, twice named to the MWC 1st team, and All-American honorable mention Lee Cummard was an excellent wing. The 6'7" Cummard was a disruptive defensive force with a knack for "lights out" 3's shooting 43.1% over his career. Cummard ranks in the Top 15 in the all-time record books in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.
Jeff Blanc was an outstanding tailback who earned All-WAC and All-American Honorable Mention recognition during his senior year. He is 5th all time in career rushing yards. When Blanc finished his career, he was the all-time leader in rushing, touchdowns, and points scored.
Brian Mitchell was a dynamic cornerback who record 9 INTs, 2 of which he took back for TDs including a 97-yard INT return, which is still a school record. Mitchell was named an All-American track athlete in 1990 for his efforts in the 4 X 100 relay.
#31 Kenneth Roberts
Ken Roberts, twice selected as 1st team All-WAC, was a complete ball player. A lethal shooter (54.6% career field goal) with a knack for getting to the foul line. Roberts started 121 games for the Cougars, which is 2nd only to his teammate Randy Reid and Jeff Chatman.
@VanquishTheFoe @CougarCast slightly uncomfortable, but a great compliment from a great coach.— Ken Roberts (@KenRoberts31) August 21, 2015
Roberts also is remembered for his iconic flat-top haircut. When asked why he wore a flat-top Ken explaned, "I don't like combing it. This is economical. Doesn't require any hair gel. And it never gets in my eyes." A style that this writer copied when he was 10 in an effort to be more like Ken Roberts.
#32 Jimmer Fredette
The player that caused a revolution that hasn't been seen anywhere else in college basketball history. Sure, a lot of players capture the imagination of a community and campus, but Jimmer owned the world in the beginning of 2011. Before the clash with San Diego State in Provo, students lined up 6 wide, all the way around the Marriott Center and out into the richest Cougar Club members parking lot, news helicopters overhead, 7 HOURS BEFORE TIPOFF!
I showed up to All-Sports Pass my way into that game at noon and figured I wouldn't be able to get in when I saw that. So I did the unthinkable. I subjected myself to get the full pitch from the now defunct MLM company, Pinnacle Security, about doing summer door-to-door sales. It was a 3 hour ordeal that came with the promise of a free ticket to the SDSU game that night. I survived and I did not sign up for a terrible summer.
I did however get to go to the game on condition I wear a Pinnacle Security shirt that said "Jimmer protects this house" on the front and "Pinnacle protects your house" on the back. A minor indignity to suffer for the right to go to the best sporting experience of my life, the night that America caught Jimmermania. So, in a strange way, thank the heavens for summer sales companies.
Dennis Pitta is one of only 13 consensus All-Americans to ever play at BYU. He is a Super Bowl Champion who caught a TD for the Ravens in that game. Set the NCAA record for most receiving yards by a Tight End with 2,901.
#33 Todd Christensen
Todd Christensen started in his first game as a Freshman. He never looked back as key contributor to his teams that won 4 WAC Championships. He was named All-WAC as a fullback, AP All-American Honorable Mention. Leading the Cougars in receiving in three of his seasons (again from the backfield!), Christensen finished at BYU with 152 receptions, 1,568 yards and 15 touchdowns. All this led to being selected in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft. Christensen was selected to 5 Pro Bowls during his 10 year professional career playing Tight End, a position he didn't embrace initially.
The story goes as follows. Christensen is drafted by the Cowboys. He leads the team in rushing during the preseason, but in the last preseason game, Todd breaks his foot, is placed on the IR and is out for the entire season. The Cowboys go on to make it to the Super Bowl. Before the next season the Cowboys want to move Christensen to Tight End. He tries it out for one week, but then disagrees with the decision to move him out of the backfield. In response, the Cowboys waive Christensen at the end of training camp. The New York Giants pick up Christensen off the waiver wire, but he gets cut again two weeks later.
The Raiders sign Christensen where he plays and captains the special teams over the course of three seasons (one of which, the Raiders win the Super Bowl). Christensen in that time period decides to embrace the Tight End position and blossoms. He led the NFL in catches twice. He wins a Super Bowl.
(Perhaps a good reminder or cautionary tale to all those stubborn QB's who insist on playing behind center rather than playing where they could help the team most in the NFL!)
Christensen also hosted American Gladiators and guest starred in an episode of Married With Children.
Finnish sensation Timo Saarelainen was the 1984-85 WAC Conference Player of the Year. One of only 11 BYU Hoopers to be named a CPOY.
Aaron Francisco was a 2-time All-MWC First Team selection at defensive back for the Cougars. He also played in the NFL on the Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Tennessee Titans.
Kevin Nixon makes the short list here because he was a good player who happens to have the distinction of having the 2nd and 3rd most famous shots in BYU Basketball history. Not too bad.
#34 Kurt Gouveia
Kurt Gouveia was a defensive standout as he was recognized by the BYU Coaches as "Outstanding linebacker of the year" during BYU 1984 National Championship season. An All-American Honorable Mention, and 1st-Team All-WAC performer in his senior season, Gouveia went on to play 13 seasons in the NFL, most of which for the Washington Redskins where he won two Super Bowls. During his 2nd run to the Lombardi Trophy, Gouveia had an interception in all three playoff victories including Super Bowl XXVI.
Gouveia also played for the Las Vegas Outlaws in the XFL, which means that he worked for Vince McMahon and that wins bonus points.
The number 34 sees a trio a great frontcourt talent in Gary Trost, Fred Roberts, and Noah Hartsock.
Fred Roberts was selected twice as a 1st team All-WAC and was Ainge's running mate during the 1981 NCAA Tournament run to the Elite Eight. He scored a career 15.5 ppg while shooting 54.6% from the field with 7 rpg. Roberts was a NBA journeyman who played 13 seasons and also enjoyed success playing in Europe for a couple seasons. He made an appearance in the 1987 NBA Finals playing for the Boston Celtics.
Gary Trost, like Roberts was selected twice as a 1st team All-WAC performer in 1991-1993. The 6'10" center averaged 10.5 ppg and 5.3 rpg during his career. His senior year he was named an All-American Honorable Mention. Trost led his team to the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. Trost's teams won two conference tournaments, a feat that today seems unthinkable.
Beyond that, Trost between his Junior and Senior seasons, with the help of his wife, saved the lives of a family of seven from their crumpled burning Suburban. If that isn't incredible enough, they met on their mission, where they tag teamed in providing first aid to save an unconscious, bleeding, and choking driver whose vehicle flipped 4 times before coming to rest.
Noah Hartsock had a monster senior season when he was expected to take a bigger offensive load averaging 16.8 ppg with 5 boards. Hartsock had a sneaky knack for shot blocking as his 177 blocks tie him for 2nd all time, and he's tied for 3rd all time in blocks per game with 1.3. Hartsock played on the 2010-11 Sweet 16 team. He was named as a All-MWC honorable mention and a 1st team All-WCC performer.
The number 34 is probably the narrowest race of all the numbers. 4 worthy candidates with very, very little between them.
#35 Devin Durrant
Devin Durrant's senior year was jaw-dropping. He was selected as a consensus 2nd team All-American on the strength of his 27.9 ppg and 5.3 rpg. Those 27.9 ppg are good for 2nd All-Time for an individual season mark, just one point behind Jimmer Fredette's Senior campaign (28.9 ppg), but keep in mind, Durrant's 27.9 ppg came without a 3-point line. It's extremely likely that at least 11 of Durrant's 242 would have been considered 3 pointers, and that would be enough to push him past Jimmer. Even simpler, had Jimmer played without a 3-point line he would have averaged 25.5 ppg.
All of this is to say, Durrant's 27.9 ppg in 1983-84 is very impressive. He is 3rd All-Time in Career PPG with 19.5. Also, he was named 1st team All-Conference twice and Conference Player of the Year.
Also, if you have a chance to hear Durrant give a talk, you should pay attention, take notes, and later #ponderize on his message.
Lakei Heimuli was the tailback on the 1984 National Championship football team. He was a two-time AP All-American Honorable Mention and two-time first team All-WAC. Fourth All-Time in career rushing, Heimuli was a consistent cornerstone of during the best era of BYU football.
Linebacker Cameron Jensen led BYU in tackles 3 seasons in a row and was honored as an All-MWC selection in each of those seasons.
Other basketball players of note include sharp-shooting Steve Schreiner who was a 1st Team All-Conference performer, Bob Skousen scored 47 points against Arizona in 1961 -- a mark that held the single game record for 49 years.
Come back next week for the final three parts of the series!