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September 12, 2015

Long Live #4

-- He ran fast, he left fast, we loved him much


They wanted to bench him once, you know. It was 2013 and BYU had just lost to Utah for the fourth straight year. Our quarterback finished the game with 18 completions and 30 incompletions, which translates to a community college-like 37.5% success rate. His two prior games hadn't gone much better either; 13 of 40 against Virginia and 9 of 26 against Texas. His completion rate for the season, at the conclusion of the Utah game, was 35.0%. Thus the calls for the backup began.

"Bring in Ammon Olsen!" "Move Hill to running back!"

Nevermind that Taysom Hill was barely returning from a major season-ending injury suffered the year before. Nevermind that the first three games of the 2013 season represented only the third, fourth and fifth starts of his career. Nevermind that two of those first three games were played between tropical downpours. Nevermind that the offense was breaking in a new offensive coordinator, quarterback coach, offensive line coach and new offensive system. Nevermind that half his incompletions were the result of drops or throwaways. Those factors were irrelevant; the fans wanted him benched.

Now, two years later, we'd give anything to bring him off it. A Lisfranc, an ACL, ankle ligaments, whatever is required to make our guy healthy, just ask, we'll give.

I'll put my feelings about Taysom as simply as simply as I can: I've been watching BYU football for 19 years1 1. A paltry time compared to some, I know.  and Taysom Hill in the first half on Saturday was as good as I've ever seen a BYU quarterback look. No, he didn't throw for six touchdowns like Max Hall once did in a magic half against UCLA, but 231 yards through the air, 37 on the ground, with three total touchdowns and a 4th dropped by a wide open running back who does not deserve to have his name printed in the same post as a Taysom tribute? Do you realize how good that is? On the road? In a season opener? In your first game back from serious injury? Against a quality opponent? In front of 90,000 fans? ON A BROKEN WHEEL?!?

To be able to pass like that AND run like that is a gift reserved normally only for Madden creations. Yeah, his legs weren't their usual lightspeed selves, but the threat was still there. Coupled with his improved pocket presence, command of the offense and locked-on passing -- the guy was hitting 65.6% of his passes over his last 6 games -- I felt absolute confidence when he was on the field.2 2. That would have been good enough for 17th in the country last season. The national leader was at 70.8% I mean really, BYU was one Algie Brown  drop away from having scored 31 points at Nebraska in one half with what is likely the worst group of running backs BYU has had since the DiLuigi-Quezada days of darkness. That is insane! That is Taysom.

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The interesting thing about sports is that to fans it really shouldn't matter this much. The performance of a group of college age kids should have no impact on our lives. Their success doesn't determine our kids' health. It doesn't impact our ability to do our jobs. It shouldn't play a role in our marriages. But somehow it gets in our blood and makes us feel all sorts of things. What I felt on Saturday was unlike anything else sports viewership had ever brought me. I was down, then up, down then up, then really really down, then higher up than I'd ever been. And then, one tweet later, I was dead. Hill was done for the season. Again.

And yet we had won the game! In miracle fashion! We were college football darlings for a weekend. Terren Houk had surpassed Riley Nelson's famous referee high five. I didn't know what to feel. I was in sports shock. Note that this wasn't the first time that Taysom had left me in such a state.

There was The Run against Texas. The 500 yard barnstorming against Houston. The bomb to Hoffman. The Hurdle. The Drag. He did things we'd never seen a QB do. He did things my brain could barely comprehend. And he could've done more. That's what hurts the most.33. In the name of comparison, Max Hall started 39 games for BYU. Taysom started 21. 

Back in 2012 we were seeing Taysom Hill start for just the second time. BYU had finished beating Utah State when word came out that Taysom got injured on the final play of the game. A season-ending injury is bad under any circumstance, but it's made 200,000 times worse when

a) the play could have been avoided if your coaching staff was aware that kneeling the ball was allowed and

b) the injured person is one of the greatest athletes to ever play for your school 44. Seriously, maybe THE greatest athlete. Each time he got injured I couldn't believe it, simply because I thought his body was indestructible. He took so many huge hits and never once seemed phased. Even now I wouldn't be surprised to see him run out of the tunnel with a boot on tonight. In fact I might be praying for it. 

After the game I was pissed. I called my trusted BYU associates in the immediate aftermath with these solemn words:

"Taysom getting hurt may turn out to be the most devastating injury in the history of BYU football."

At the time I obviously didn't know if my proclamation would come true. I was just a Taysom-lover who was angry and needed to spout. The sad part is now we may never know. If Taysom didn't get hurt would he have played all of the 2012 season? Is it likely that with those 7 extra games of experience he is better in 2013? Is it possible that playing more leads to him playing safer, thereby avoiding injury in 2014? Is it possible that a healthy Taysom in 2012 and 2014 doesn't suffer a Lisfranc explosion last week? Is it possible that a healthy Taysom could have led BYU to the holy land of the undefeateds? I don't know, but on Saturday, for at least one half, it sure looked like it.

The future for Taysom is clouded with options. He has undeniable football talent, but now also carries three critical injuries on his docket. He's old for a football player and has a wife to support, a life to start. What would you do if you were him? Keep chasing the dream? Lay it down and join the working dead?

In all things football, Taysom has been extremely unlucky. You have to be in order to be dealt three season-enders, two of which came courtesy of the same player5 5. Google Brian Suite and the first thing that comes up is Taysom Hill.  and the other the result of coaching bafoonery. Yet while sports have dealt him a raw hand, in life it's just the opposite.

Whether he comes back to BYU, goes pro, transfers, switches positions or leaves football and becomes a financial headmaster, it really doesn't matter. He's good at football, good at finance, good at life period. Success in whatever he chooses is all but guaranteed. It's sourced in his DNA, apparent in his demeanor, visible in his play, heck, it's even basically written in his name. You think Taysom wins again, somewhere, someway, somehow?

Taysom Will.


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