This is the third article in a three-part series on BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall and his unique Summer 2007 fireside tour.

Following his introduction to the Sacramento fireside audience back in May, Bronco Mendenhall took his position at the podium and said, “What you have heard tonight is what our program is all about.”

He then proceeded to list an impressive set of behind-the-scenes statistics about the current BYU football team:

BYU has 70 returned missionaries on the roster, and 12 languages are spoken in the locker room.
BYU had the third highest team grade point average in Division 1 football this year.
The team volunteered over 400 hours of community service in the past quarter.

Coach Mendenhall pointed out that Zac Collie was representative of the type of student-athlete BYU attracts–young men with a lot of heart. He was headed to the NFL because of his faith, diligence, and work ethic. He set high goals for himself and did everything possible to achieve them.

He then shared one of the more humorous moments of the event:

“When I was the defensive coordinator at New Mexico and we were getting ready to play BYU at Lavell Edwards’ last home game, all the coaches asked: ‘How are we going to beat them? They have all those returned missionaries.’

Two years later, I was sitting around with the BYU coaches preparing to play USC, and we all asked the question: ‘How are we going to beat them? We have all these returned missionaries!'”

Bronco went on to share a few other stories about faith and determination that were manifest by members of the BYU football program. He then closed with a powerful, but simply stated testimony.

Following a closing hymn and prayer, hundreds of adults and kids of all ages lined up to meet the BYU coach. He remained for over an hour shaking hands, posing for photos, and autographing footballs, helmets, posters–you name it. It was exhausting just watching him.

Following is a Q&A we conducted with Coach Mendenhall a few days after the event:

CG365: Where did the idea for this offseason fireside tour come from?

BRONCO: Two years ago we started putting on firesides each Friday night before our games, home and away. Our football program is full of outstanding young men that want to give back to their communities through service. These firesides have become increasingly more popular, particularly among the youth of the church, and they have provided the opportunity to serve.

We have received requests from many area church leaders to come to their communities to put on these firesides. In response to these requests I have decided to participate in this 9-city spring fireside tour that ranges from Orlando to Hawaii.

CG365: Would you consider these firesides to be part of your recruiting strategy?

BRONCO: This fireside tour is not used as a recruiting tool, rather, it is a vehicle to add value to the ever growing need that the youth of this country has to grow spiritually, create and maintain goals, and have a relationship with their Heavenly Father.

CG365: Still, are you finding that these firesides help your recruiting efforts?

BRONCO: Any exposure that the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints can have to Brigham Young University and its mission is encouraged. We feel that BYU Football is the Flag Bearer of Brigham Young University, through football excellence. These firesides represent an important role that I and our team have embraced. We are not concerned with the effect that it might have on recruiting, but we do know that it can have an effect on the lives of the youth and hopefully help aid them to make the right decisions in their lives.

CG365: DO you expect to have verbal commitments from the majority of your recruits before fall camp like you did last year?

BRONCO: We have worked very hard in recruiting and we do anticipate having several commitments before we begin fall camp.

CG365: Is the fireside tour something you might consider reprising next year?

BRONCO: So far, these firesides have been outstanding. We believe that they have produced a good result with the youth. We plan to continue these spring firesides annually.

CG365: How do you embrace student-athletes (like J.J. DiLuigi and Ryan Kessman) who are not LDS and support and respect their choice to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience?”

BRONCO: “J.J. Diluigi and Ryan Kessman chose to attend BYU with a very good knowledge of what they were signing up to do. Although, we do know that they will need to be cared for. Their choices of faith will be encouraged and developed as students here at BYU. We are fortunate to have their diverse backgrounds in our program.

We have many programs in place to care for them and all of our new incoming freshman. Ryan and J.J. fit the model of what we are looking for, and we are excited that they are coming to BYU. Both of these young men had other options available to them and both chose to represent BYU. They are excited and anxious to a part of this team.”

CG365: You are responsible for restoring the tradition of BYU football as it was under Lavell Edwards. What does that mean to you?

BRONCO: Coach Edwards is BYU Football. Quite simply, we want to make him proud with how we conduct ourselves on and off the field.