When a news magazine calls to see if you've changed religions lately, when a fashion magazine asks for your taste in spring attire, when radio stations inquire about the name of your dog, when you have to change phone numbers not once but twice, when you have to retain a booking agent and you run out of days to book, when businesses call and want you to fly 2,000 miles just to do lunch . . . you know you've arrived.
Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of the Heisman Trophy winner. Everyone wants a piece of Ty Detmer.Detmer has had no peace or privacy since August, when the Heisman campaign began. He isn't likely to have any for some time, either. Speech requests, intrusive news stories, autograph hounds, photo shoots, you name it, he's had it. "About the only thing that hasn't been reported is his dates," says Ralph Zobell, BYU's sports information director. Somebody get the Enquirer.
It's all the price of the Heisman, but lately the media, for once, have outdone themselves.
Yes, the rumor's true. You heard right. Detmer, a life-long Methodist, was baptized a Mormon two weeks ago today. Detmer hoped his decision to join another church wouldn't be broadcasted or reported, but it was too much to hope for. Even before the ceremony, it was an item in a Provo newspaper column. That started the phones ringing at BYU.
"We thought this would be his private life, not a news event," says BYU publicist Val Hale. Right, but wrong.
Three days after the event, AP reported it. USA Today followed with a story the next day. Headline: Heisman winner changes Faith." Under a picture of Detmer was the caption: "Ty Detmer now confirmed, baptized Mormon." The article was complete with juicy details (who performed the baptism) and quotes, and it even speculated that Detmer's girlfriend might have been a factor in his conversion ("It's not the Church of Kim," Detmer has said). However, the paper did show some restraint: the story was not accompanied by any of its full-color graphics (numbers of Mormon quarterbacks wearing No. 14, for instance).
This wasn't the end of it. A Salt Lake TV station reported the event. The National has requested information from BYU on Detmer's conversion. A national news magazine called the chapel in Lindon - where the baptism was performed - inquiring about the event. Hale says the BYU school newspaper wanted to run "a big story on it, but I talked them into a small blurb." Heaven knows - pardon the pun - what future headlines will bring us: "Detmer Accepts Job as Sunday School Teacher."
By now, Detmer is used to such attention and handles it with typical aplomb. His personal life hasn't been personal for seven months. Last fall, CBS went pheasant hunting with him. A local TV station tagged along on a deer hunt. NBC and The National photographed and interviewed him while he cleaned his gun in the front yard of his rented house in Orem, with neighbors looking on in bewilderment.
For a time Detmer was naive enough to maintain a listed phone number, but in the last few months he has changed it twice (both unlisted), much to the relief of his three roommates/teammates, who have endured enough questions about Detmer themselves. These days the house phone is connected to an answering machine.
Things have been at least as hectic since the football season ended. People come to the Detmer door for autographs. Magazines call BYU with various requests (some favorites: one wanted a picture of Detmer posing with "a good looking BYU co-ed" - Is this the start of a new BYU co-ed joke?), a fashion magazine wanted to know what type of clothing Detmer wore in the spring.
Other than that, it's been a fairly routine winter for Detmer. He got engaged to Kim Herbert. He changed religions. He had his throwing shoulder operated on. He's been racking up record frequent flyer miles while rounding up various awards around the country.
"You might as well have it all at once," says Detmer.
Thankfully, daily requests for appearances have dropped from a high of 10 to 20 to five. Detmer has cut back to one speaking engagement per week. "There are no more open dates," says Hale, who acts as Detmer's booking agent. "He'll be gone half of February, and remember he has to go to school."
In February alone, Detmer's travels will have taken him to, in order, Mission, Texas, (for a parade appearance), Provo, Fort Worth (for the Davey O'Brien Award), Provo, San Antonio (to visit family), Philadelphia (for the Maxwell Award), San Antonio (to get the screws removed from his shoulder), Provo, and Washington D.C. (for the Quarterback Club Award). Detmer, who stashes all his trophies in the living room of his grandparents' home in Texas ("My Grandma dusts them, and shows them to anyone who comes over," he says. "It keeps them excited."), has turned down other awards simply because he doesn't have time to appear at all the ceremonies.
"I feel sorry for the guy," says Hale. "He's feeling the pressure. He's realizing he's got to say `no' more often now. He used to say yes to everything. But he's realizing that he's got to say no if he's going to have a life."
Hale continues. "I know why juniors who win the Heisman turn pro. That's the easy way out."
In the meantime, it's life in a fish bowl.
By the way, the dog's name is Presley, as in Elvis.