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1984 national champions remain a ‘band of brothers’

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Left to right; Robbie Bosco, Tim Herrmann, Marv Allen and Kyle Morrell, members of the BYU 1984 National Championship football team, in July.

Left to right; Robbie Bosco, Tim Herrmann, Marv Allen and Kyle Morrell, members of the BYU 1984 National Championship football team, in July.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

Editor's note: This is the third in an eight-part series celebrating the 25th anniversary of BYU's 1984 national college football championship.

It's been a quarter of a century since BYU receiver Adam Haysbert hauled in a Robbie Bosco pass for a game-clinching touchdown in the Cougars' 1984 season-opener on the road against then-No. 3-ranked Pittsburgh.

The play set the foundation for an entire season.

Soft-spoken, quiet and humble, Haysbert used to tell his teammates that his brother, an aspiring actor, would make it some day.

"He's going to be an actor, he's going to be an actor," defensive tackle Jim Herrmann remembers Adam Haysbert saying.

Well, he did. While Adam is a minister in Philadelphia, his older brother Dennis starred in the Fox hit series "24" as U.S. President David Palmer and played Commander Jonas Blane in the CBS adventure drama "The Unit."

Adam Haysbert spoke of dreams and goals of his brother but, with his own catch, he set in motion a grand dream for BYU football, too. That 1984 Cougar squad never lost a game.

"We just had a feeling that we would win, and keep winning," said Herrmann, now an executive with Icon Health & Fitness in Draper. "Our dream came true."

"What we had then, we still have," said backup quarterback Blaine Fowler, now a color analyst for The mtn. network and host of a local radio show in Salt Lake City.

"As a group, we were very close then and we still are today," Fowler said.

"It's like a band of brothers. When you go through something like that, you cannot do it unless you have chemistry, unless you are one. It took that kind of closeness to overcome the challenges, the close games, the key plays we had to get to get a win, to overcome adversity.

"Of all the teams I've played on, been associated with, or covered as a sportscaster over the years, I don't think I've witnessed one as close as that one," Fowler said. "It sticks with you. LaVell Edwards might have had more talented teams; I think Utah's team last year was a great one, so was the 2004 team. But none had the closeness on both offense and defense as our team.

"We had a real mixture of cultures — black, white, Polynesian, players who came from all over the country. We all got along. We watched each other's backs all the time. There was not bickering.

"Even today," he continued, "I'll see one of my teammates, somebody I haven't seen in 25 years, and I'll go up and we'll hug and there's this bond, something that's tangible and real, something that will never be broken by time or distance."

Of the 48 primarily key players on the roster that year, 18 served LDS missions, a much lower percentage than what you'll see on a BYU team today, which is about 85 to 90 percent.

Today, that 1984 squad is spread out from Hawaii to New York, and the players have become fathers and grandfathers. They are doctors, teachers, carpenters, ministers, stockbrokers and sportscasters, whose work can be seen in the nation's top media markets, some with extensive national exposure.

In addition to Fowler's TV work, center Trevor Matich has worked with ESPN and punt return specialist Vai Sikahema is a popular TV sports anchor in Philadelphia. Receiver Glen Kozlowski does a Chicago Bears radio show in the Windy City. In terms of money made for minutes worked, Sikahema may be the biggest cash man.

Kicker Lee Johnson, who went on to play for more NFL teams that anybody else on the team, struck it big with his buddy Steve Young playing the stock market.

"Now he's giving back," laughed Herrmann.

It's tough to say who has made the biggest fortune. Some say it isn't a player but a coach — former quarterbacks coach Mike Holmgren.

"He'd always tell Robbie (Bosco) and I that one of us would make it big someday, make millions, and that when we did, we had to remember him and take care of him," Fowler said.

"As it turned out, he's made the millions. I'm sure as one of the most respected coaches in the NFL over the years, with all those teams he's coached, from being an assistant with the 49ers, the Super Bowl champion Packers and Seahawks, he's made a ton."

Another assistant coach for that team could make a claim, too. UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow, a receivers coach for BYU in 1984, has earned plenty of coin since moving on to North Carolina State before being part of national championships at USC and then a stint with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL.

Backup lineman Ty Mattingly may have actually hit the biggest jackpot when he hooked up early in the glory days of network company Novell, working as the prime assistant for CEO Ray Noorda.

And the smartest guy on the squad proved it in his post-playing days.

Linebacker Marv Allen, his teammates claim, had the best grades and the highest GPA back in the day. He is currently a cardiologist in Mapleton.

Interesting enough, Bosco's two tackles on that offensive line have migrated around the country and ended up in the same zip code. Robert Anae is BYU's current offensive coordinator, and Louis Wong is the highly successful coach of the state champion Timpview High School football team.

Kyle Morrell, the safety whose diving goal-line tackle of Hawaii's quarterback in Aloha Stadium helped save that undefeated season, is a sales representative who now lives in Farmington. His teammates remember him as one of the toughest players on the squad.

"I remember before the Wyoming game, Kyle got up and gave a speech," Herrmann said. "He started off real soft then he got louder and louder. Pretty soon he was screaming at the top of his lungs and he grabbed a ketchup bottle and threw it. It whistled right by my head. Dude, what were you thinking?"

The 1984 crew keeps close tabs on one another, said Fowler. That includes the team comedian, the kicker Johnson. He can often be found all over the place, calling teammates, hooking up at games, showing up on BYU's campus, visiting practices.

"He's a typical kicker, kind of crazy," said Fowler.

A few weeks ago, Herrmann was in an important meeting when his cell phone rang. It was Johnson.

"Did you hear about Michael Jackson?" Johnson asked Herrmann.

"No, I haven't heard," Herrmann said.

"Well," Johnson said. "He died."

"Oh, well, thanks for calling me," Herrmann said.

Then the big defensive tackle who roomed with the effervescent, ebullient Johnson remembered THE Michael Jackson scene.

Johnson was in the shower near the locker room, all soaped up, and he had a Michael Jackson song blaring over his tape player. Right there, naked as a baby, Johnson was moonwalking, twirling, high stepping to the music as players shuffled by and began to give him an ovation.

"I'll never get that one out of my mind — unfortunately," Herrmann laughed.

"Lee was always dancing in the shower," Fowler said.

Kozlowski, a favorite target of Bosco, had a reputation for starting fights, or finding his way into one. His blood had a low boiling point, evidenced still by an incident on an Orem golf course this past fall on the day of the San Diego State game, Nov. 8.

Playing behind a slow, plodding foursome, Kozlowski began shouting ahead for the group to pick it up. Playing with Bosco and Kozlowski's son, BYU receiver Tyler Kozlowski, Glen was getting antsy. One of the guys in the group made the mistake of turning around and telling Glen to shut up, using an expletive.

To a horrified Bosco, in seconds, Koz got in the cart and raced up to the group, went right up to the guy and asked what he'd said. The guy just looked at him, stunned. After repeating what he said, the guy found himself in the legendary alligator grip of The Koz, crying out, "It's a social game, it's a social game."

Of course, the title of toughest guy is argued amongst the team. Koz doesn't get too many votes over Morrell, or even a linebacker like Cary Whittingham, younger brother of Utah coach and former BYU captain Kyle Whittingham.

"Thing with Koz," said Cary Whittingham, "A guy that lays down on the field after almost every play with what looks like a season-ending injury and then miraculously jumps back up to be in the next play cannot be the toughest guy on the team. Of course, I'd vote for myself."

Whittingham, a former Provo City police officer, now works with the Provo School District as a resource officer. He is also a P.E. teacher at Timpview High, where he coaches the linebackers with former teammate Wong.

"Of course, Louis is the guy from that team that I see the most," said Cary. "I'm also close to Jay McDonald, another linebacker, and those I have relationships with at BYU are those from the old days, from that team. Other than that, I don't have that much contact there any more. No one I talk to makes a red-blue thing about me or my brother, Utah and BYU."

Whittingham agreed that the 1984 team had great chemistry.

"I can't put my thumb on one time the offense or the defense struggled and guys on the sideline said anything negative," he said. "Didn't happen. We were very much about taking one another's backs."

On the Fourth of July, at the Provo parade, Whittingham knows he can count on one thing — an encounter if he ever needs a bump or handshake with his former teammates. As a patrol officer, he was always assigned parade duty near in the vicinity of 575 East Center Street. And every year, at the same spot, he sees Johnson and Mattingly hanging out in front of a house he suspects is owned by a relative of Johnson, the Michael Jackson shower dancer.

If anyone ever wants to hook up with those guys or meet for a reunion, says Cary, you can go there every year and count on them.

"Some things never change," he said.

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com