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Super men were simply the best

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I'm more than a bird. I'm more than a plane. I'm more than some pretty face beside a train. And it's not easy to be me." — John Ondrasik, "Superman, It's Not Easy"

The TV video caught a legendary snapshot of two gladiators who'd just left everything they had on the football field: Eric Weddle and John Beck, in their last meeting following their final football game in the state of Utah.


And we can't get enough of them.

The drama and contributions of the Deseret Morning News Co-Athletes of 2006 will receive another tribute when the YMCA of Greater Salt Lake City honors Weddle and Beck with their "Simply the Best" award during a banquet Tuesday at the ninth annual Sports Night dinner in the Salt Palace Grand Ballroom.

In addition, YMCA chief executive officer Tom Nissalke announced BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall will receive the club's citation as "Coach of the Year."

Past honorees include Jerry Sloan, Ron McBride, Mark Eaton, Jimmy Shea Jr., Jeff Hornaceck, Rod Hundley, Rulon Gardner, Spence Eccles and Larry H. Miller. To salute in person that night, call Amber at the YMCA, 801-466-6299.

Weddle, the All-American, football's consummate utility player for the Utes, catching the imagination of collegedom; Beck, a motivated gym rat who triumphed over scrutiny in BYU's quarterback glass bowl, finishing a champion. Both are expected to be taken high in the NFL draft in two weeks.

"The premise is we would honor someone or several people who have been very important in the sports community in Utah, or with Utah roots," said Nissalke. "Morgan Scally was our first student-athlete of the year, and now we've chosen Beck and Weddle, who have really set an example for young people.

"Also, we will start a coach-of-the-year category.

Bronco did the best job in the state." The committee also considered Weber State's Randy Rahe and BYU's Dave Rose.

This year's honor breaks new ground for the YMCA, one of the state's leading organizations in aiding latchkey schoolchildren and the summer Camp Roger in the Uintas. Nissalke wants the award to be more inclusive. Past honorees were all north of the Point of the Mountain.

"We want this night to draw the most reputable sports personalities in the state every year. Coach McBride hasn't missed a year, and I expect Utah coach Kyle Whittingham will continue to come, as will Mendenhall in years to come," said Nissalke.

On Tuesday, Mendenhall took time after practice to reflect on the YMCA honors. He spoke of Weddle first.

"I think he's accomplished a great deal in his career at Utah," Mendenhall said. "I haven't had much interaction with him personally, but the interaction I've had has reflected class, reflected dignity and reflected a very intelligent person. Certainly on the field and off the field he is a tremendous competitor who has proved very versatile. I have tremendous respect for him."

And Beck?

"With John, as a quarterback, he is the main part of that, being an inspiration to not only one side of the ball but the whole team. What I'm so happy about is that John succeeded after taking criticism in a program that wasn't winning games. He had his ups and downs when all he was trying to do was be the best player and leader he could be."

And himself?

"In terms of me personally, it's reflected in our team. I'm thankful for the leadership of our seniors and those players who simply embraced the philosophy and made it their own."

Mendenhall, Weddle and Beck.

Sounds like a law firm.

Simply put, in 2006, they were super men.

"Men weren't meant to ride with clouds between their knees. I'm only a man in a funny red sheet, digging for kryptonite on this one-way street. ... " — John Ondrasik, "Superman, It's Not Easy"

E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com