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.
#36 Bob Davis
Before a 1988 clash with the University of Miami, Davis said of Hurricane's QB Steve Walsh, "I want to hit Walsh. I don't like the guy. I want a sack. He's arrogant. He's always pointing and flaunting it and talking - he's kind of like me."
Linebacker Bob Davis had a persona of a wild man as he once had a news article written about him titled, "BYU's Bob Davis has been tamed... but only off the field." Davis, as a freshman, openly broke the honor code when he showed up to class with a wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek and a diamond earring. He didn't follow the rules at practice and was kicked out 8-9 times as he was getting into fights and hitting the QB. He even missed the team plane for a road game at Air Force. He finished the school year on academic suspension. So, why was this put up with? Because Davis was good. Very, very good.
Davis was an All-American Honorable Mention and 3rd-Team selection, All-Wac 1st Team, Butkus Award Finalist, and once claimed that he received improper benefits while playing at BYU, but never implicated LaVell Edwards. Davis' teammate, safety Eric Bergeson, said of Davis' allegations, "I know Bob Davis well. I have grave doubts about his character and his word on any subject. I would take anything he says with a large grain of salt."
Regardless, Davis is easily the greatest player to ever wear the number 36, no grain of salt needed with that claim.
#37 Vic So’oto
Vic So'oto entered BYU as a tight end. He was competing for time with Dennis Pitta and Andrew George. He still totaled 12 catches for 112 yards. After getting a medical redshirt, So'oto switched sides and became a linebacker and then a defensive end, where he excelled and was honored as an All-MWC 1st team while leading the team in sacks and tackles for loss in 2010.
An avid unicycler, Justin Sorensen was a kicker for the Y who excelled at PATs and short field goals making 122 of 125 and 12 of 15, respectively. However, he struggled from 30 yards and out kicking 31 of 51 for 60.8%.
#38 Matt Payne
Matt Payne was the bright spot in the rough 2004 football season as he was 1st Team All-American selection as a kicker. 120-126 on PATs and 42-48 on his field goals. He was also a strong punter.
He also hit that guy during the Boise State game.
#39 Cole Miyahira
The number 39 was a showdown between two candidates - Cole Miyahira and Grant Nelson. Here's the tale of the tape for their careers.
Cole Miyahira, DB, 26 tackles, 2 for loss for -4 yards, 2 INTs for 4 return yards, and 3 pass break ups.
Grant Nelson, LB, 41 tackles, 3 for loss with 2 sacks a total of -10 yards, 2 pass break ups and 1 QB hurry.
While Miyahira had less tackles, he did force two turnovers and that's more important. So, congrats to Cole Miyahira, BYU's #39!
#40 Eldon Fortie
"The Phantom" Eldon Fortie was BYU Football's first All-American. His number is retired. Fortie rushed for 272 yards in a game, which is still a school record. He finished 2nd in the nation in total offense in 1962, when he finished 10th in Heisman voting.
#41 Leon White
41 has seen several great linebackers. Most notably, 1984 Defensive Holiday Bowl MVP Leon White. White was a 2nd team All-American in 84, and was All-American Honorable Mention in 85. He had 249 tackles with 20 tackles for loss with 17 sacks in his career. He had 4 INTs with one being a pick 6. White then played 8 seasons in the NFL.
Bryan Kehl was 1st team All-MWC in 2007. A high motor outside linebacker, Kehl recorded 205 tackles in his career with 21 tackles for loss with 7 sacks, 3 INTs one returned for TD, and 2 forced fumbles.
Uani' Unga was a major contributor for one season at BYU. He made an impact earning All-American Honorable Mention honors with his 143 tackles with 6.5 being for loss.
Morgan Bailey was a dominant forward on the BYU women's basketball team. She was West Coast Conference Player of the Year, an All-American Honorable Mention, and 1st Team All-WCC. She finished her career 20th in scoring, and 6th in rebounding. She was a key starter on BYU's Sweet Sixteen team her Junior year.
#42 Dana Wilgar
Dana Wilgar was a star defensive back on the 1975 and 76. Wilgar was twice named 1st team All-Conference, and in '76 he was an All-American Honorable Mention. Career stats: 280 tackles, 6 INTs, 6 Forced Fumbles.
Marty Lythgoe is a member of the 1,000 point club for BYU Hoops. The forward was a member of the 1966 NIT Championship team, and was selected 2nd team All-Conference twice.
#43 David Nixon
Linebacker David Nixon's huge hit on TCU QB Jeff Ballard in 2006 punctuated BYU's huge (and extremely rare) road victory against a ranked opponent. The Horned Frogs had won 13-straight going into that game. Nixon was named 2nd team All-MWC in 2008. Nixon tallied 43 tackles for loss with 12 being sacks over his career which ranks 3rd All-Time in Mountain West Conference history.
Ambidexterous forward Bruce Burton was honored as a 1st-team All-Conference in 1962-63 on the strength of 17.1 ppg.
#44 Tina Gunn Robison
Tina Gunn Robison's 44 hangs in the rafters on the east side of the Marriott Center. She averaged 27.3 points per game and 14.7 rebound per game over her CAREER. She's BYU Women's Basketball Career Leader in points (2,759! For reference, Tyler Haws scored 2,720 points while playing 30 more games than Robison and having a 3-point line!), rebounds (1,482!), points in a single game (56!), and scoring average (27.3!). She led the nation in points per game in her 1979-80 senior season with 31.2. Robison was a 2-time All-American.
"Freight Train" Rob Morris was an All-American linebacker and two-time All-WAC performer. Morris went on to be drafted in the 1st round of the NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts where he won a Super Bowl.
Trent Plaisted, Brett Applegate, and Steve Trumbo all were All-Conference 1st Team big men in their last season with the Cougars.
#45 Shawn Bradley
While Shawn Bradley only played one season at BYU, he accomplished great things. He was All-American Honorable Mention, 2nd Team All-WAC, and Freshman of the Year. Bradley racked up 177 blocks (T-2nd All-Time) for 5.2 blocks per game (1st All-Time by a margin of 3.35 bpg). He led the nation in both of those categories. His only season saw the Cougars make the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament on the strength of Bradley's 10 block shots against Virginia. He was 2nd overall pick in the NBA Draft and played 12 seasons, leading the league in blocks in 1997.
Harvey Unga, like Bradley was a standout as a freshman, as he made the Freshman All-American team. Unga was an All-Conference performer who is the career rushing leader at BYU despite only playing 3 seasons in the white and blue.
Other notable 45's include stretch 4 Jonathan Tavernari and linebacker Rocky Biegel.
#46 Shay Muirbrook
Shay Muirbrook in the 1996 Cotton Bowl was a man possessed. 11 tackles with 6 (SIX!) sacks! Muirbrook was 2nd team All-WAC as a sophomore, 1st team All-WAC as a junior and senior, and 1996 WAC Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.
Tom Holmoe was great defensive back who snagged 13 INTs during his Cougar career with 2 of them going back for TDs. As a senior, he was All-American Honorable Mention and 1st Team All-WAC. He also has 3 Super Bowl rings to his name as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
#47 Todd Shell
Todd Shell has the best career as a Cougar wearing 47 as he was a 1983 All-American Honorable Mention. Shell's work at the Y includes 275 tackles, 20 sacks, 5 picks with 2 returned for TD. He was a 1st round pick in 1984 when he was selected 24th overall by San Francisco.
The story is well told, Ezekiel Ansah went from a kid who didn't know how to put on shoulder pads to the 5th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Ziggy's physical gifts made him a lethal weapon at creating pressure from the defensive end position. If you can believe it, he's the 2nd-most successful BYU Football player from Africa.
Paul Walkenhorst played 9 amazing seasons at BYU. He was solid in all of them. At least if felt that way, as he recorded his first tackle against Virginia on September 2, 2000 and his last against California on December 22. 2005. He may very well be the only player to start for 3 different head coaches at BYU.
#48 Brian Hansen
The tale of the tape between these linebackers.
Brain Hansen 1978, 1981-82, 96 tackles, 5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble
Jameson Frazier 2008-11, 63 tackles, 4 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 2 INTs.
The edge goes to Hansen.
#49 Marv Allen
Marv Allen was a linebacker on the 1984 National Championship squad. Leading the team in tackles and interceptions Allen was recoginized as an All-American Honorable Mention. Allen's career saw 354 tackles, 4 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 6 INTs, 2 forced fumbles. Allen went on to become a surgeon practicing cardiology at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
Brady Poppinga has 193 tackles, 19 sacks, 39 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles. Poppinga played 7 NFL seasons and won a Super Bowl XLV with the Green Bay Packers.
#50 Bart Oates
The two best football centers in BYU history both wore the number 50.
Bart Oates was named to the All-American 2nd Team in 1982. He went on to play in the USFL where he won 2 championships before moving to the NFL's New York Giants where he was a 27-year-old "rookie." Oates was named to the All-Rookie team, his first professional accolade of many. Oates was named to 5 Pro Bowl teams. He started an astounding 125 consecutive games for the Giants. He won 3 Super Bowls (2 with the New York Giants, 1 with the San Francisco 49ers).
Bart Oates' work ethic extended off the field as he would immediately following the football season attend law school at Seton Hall where he got his law degree in 1990. Oates would actively practice law during the following off-season's in Morristown, New Jersey.
Anchoring the offensive line at Center for the 1984 National Championship Team, Trevor Matich was an All-American 3rd-Team performer. Matich went on to be a 1st round draft pick in the NFL where he played 12 seasons. Of course, Matich has gone on to be a very good broadcaster that has been awarded 8 Emmy's and currently works at ESPN.
There was some slight confusion about what Matich's number is, when I checked his official BYU Athletics page it lists Matich as #52, while over at CougarStats.com it has Matich at #50. I ended up pulling up and watching the 1984 Holiday Bowl game to figure it out. Score one up for CougarStats, he wore 50.
Greg Kite played on some of the best teams in BYU history. He also played on some of the best teams in NBA history as a member of the 1984 and 1986 Boston Celtics NBA Championship teams. Kite was a tenacious rebounder who used his 6'11" 250 pound frame to grab more boards than he did score points at both the collegiate and professional level. Kite also reigns as BYU blocked shots king.
#51 John Raass
The number 51 is a toss up between 3 defensive players for the Cougars football team. Linebackers Ladd Akeo and Justin Luettgerodt, and defensive lineman John Raass.
Ladd Akeo recorded 134 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 6 pass break ups, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception during his time over the 1984-86 seasons.
Justin Luettgerodt was a junior college transfer who tallied 98 tackles, 7 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 1 pass break up, 1 forced fumble and 3 INTs during his two seasons in 2004-05.
Big John Raass, a Ricks College transfer, was disruptive on the defensive line during his two seasons with the Cougars racking up 91 tackles, 7 sacks, 11 tackles for loss. For his Senior season efforts, Raass was named an All-American Honorable Mention and for that, he gets the slight nod for ownership of #51.
#52 Jim Usevitch
"BYU would offer me (a scholarship), then take it away. Finally, they told me they had 3 scholarships and I was the fourth player." - Jim Usevitch.
The three players ahead of Usevitch, in Frank Arnold's mind, were guards. Through the petitioning of then assistant coach Randy Reid, Usevitch moved up the pecking order. The argument being, you need to bring in at least one big guy. Coach Reid got that one right.
Usevitch averaged 14.8 ppg and 7.2 rpg as the starting center on the 1987-88 BYU Hoops team that played their way to a #3 ranking nationally after a 17-0 start.
#53 Alan Taylor
The late Alan Taylor was the 2nd best player on BYU Hoops' greatest team ever. He was a gifted center who was named an All-WAC 1st teamer and had career averages of 11.7 ppg and 8.4 rpg.
"Jumbo" Jim Eakins was another good center for the Y. He played in the ABA for 8 seasons winning 2 ABA Championships, and he was an ABA All-Star in 1974. Eakins also played 2 seasons in the NBA following the ABA-NBA merger.
Cary Whittingham was an excellent linebacker who played from 1981-85. Whittingham recorded 147 tackles during BYU 1984 National Championship campaign. A career total of 340 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 INTs.
#54 John Fairchild
It is the best trivia question in all of BYU Sports.
Who is the BYU Basketball career leader in points per game?
The answer is John Fairchild.
For good measure, Fairchild also is the career leader in rebounds per game. Fairchild averaged 20.92 points per contest and 12.8 rebounds per game! Whoa.
Fairchild is BYU Basketball's forgotten star. He was the first player ever to be honored as Conference Player of the Year while also being named as an All-American. Fairchild was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers where he made his mark, sort of. He wore jersey #33 which now hangs in the rafters of the Staples Center.
"That's the good news," Fairchild said, setting up the punch line. "The bad news is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the one wearing it."
Tresa Spaulding Hamson, mother to BYU's #19 Jennifer Hamson, was impressive in her own right. The 6'7" center led the country in scoring in 1987 with a 28.9 average and earned All-America honors. She is clearly the BYU Hoops blocks champion, men or women, with an unthinkable 494 swats. Greg Kite, BYU men's leader, recorded 208 blocks.
#55 Orrin Olsen
Orrin Olsen was an All-American football center in 1975. While a member of the BYU Football team, Orrin Olsen also performed in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Olsen also played in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Rafael Araujo was an All-American honorable mention basketball center in 2004. Araujo was a strong, huge man at 6'11" 295-pounds. I used to see him inhale Tomassito's with Luiz Lemes in the Cougareat on the regular as a student. Araujo's size was intriguing to NBA scouts and he ended up being selected 8th overall in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors. He played 3 NBA seasons.
Having now covered #00-55, this ends the portion of this series that features a variety of sports. Now, as we tackle #56-79 it is all about football coming later this week!