Facebook Twitter

BYU football: Fiery Kozlowski ‘grew up’ at Y.

SHARE BYU football: Fiery Kozlowski ‘grew up’ at Y.

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

PROVO — Glen Kozlowski arrived at BYU in the fall of 1981 as a brash freshman with loads of talent and a wild streak.

Kozlowski started at wide receiver, establishing himself as one of quarterback Jim McMahon's favorite targets. But, off the field, he admits he pushed the limits too far.

"After the bowl game, (McMahon) and I were both asked to leave school," Kozlowski remembers. "I was suspended for a semester. I wasn't a good example of what you were supposed to be as a BYU student. It's not something I'm proud of, but it was something I was doing and BYU held to its guns and held to its standards and said, 'You can't behave this way. You have to leave.' "

Frustrated at the time, Kozlowski decided to shop around for a new school. But two things convinced him to return to Provo — his future wife, Julie, and Cougars head coach LaVell Edwards.

"LaVell called me about once a month just to see how I was doing, encouraging me to come back and work hard and make things right," Kozlowski said. "I could have gone to other schools and I had opportunities to go elsewhere. I wanted (Julie) to go with me to another college. She said, 'Well, I'm going back to BYU. You can go wherever you want.' I kind of followed her back."

Good thing.

BYU and Kozlowski mended their strained relationship and, a few years later, both won a national championship in 1984. Kozlowski, known for his circus catches, giving high-fives to fans after touchdowns, and vexing opponents with his "six-shooter" antics, was a key contributor on that '84 team.

Today, Kozlowski, who is the new football coach at North Chicago High School, is grateful he finished what he started at BYU.

"Being at BYU changed my life," he says. "I was a pretty wild kid. I was a free spirit and I liked doing whatever I wanted to do, and I really enjoyed fighting for whatever reason. LaVell, Norm Chow, the other coaches and my teammates and friends helped me grow up."

Following his Cougar career, Kozlowski played for eight seasons for the Chicago Bears in the NFL. He's also been involved in broadcasting for many years in Chicago.

Meanwhile, he wanted his boys to go to BYU, too — but not because of football. Still, today, his oldest son, Tyler, is a member of the Cougar football team. Just like dad, Tyler wears the No. 7 jersey.

"I'm excited that he's passionate about playing football," Glen says of Tyler. "I'm glad he can wear the BYU uniform, period. To wear my number is a bonus. I wanted my sons to go to school there because I knew how it changes your life, the experiences that you have. I'm just happy that he's happy and working towards a degree."

Tyler, who was born just months before the start of that 1984 championship season, knows he is one of the links between that team and today's squad guided by Bronco Mendenhall.

"Anytime you put that 'Y' on your helmet and go out to play, you're representing the school. Not only the school, but the Church as well," Tyler said. "When we play football, we're not just playing football. We're trying to accomplish something much greater. For me, when I get on the field, I wear No. 7 to honor my dad. I have expectations to be great, just like my dad was. I won't settle for anything less."

Growing up in Chicago, Tyler and his brothers would watch a highlight video of the 1984 season over and over again.

"I remember that one catch against Pittsburgh, where my dad dove across the middle, got up and I think he threw the ball at the (defender)," Tyler says. "That one sticks out."

But it wasn't until recently that Tyler could appreciate the accomplishment of winning a national title.

"I don't think you can fully understand unless you actually play and see how hard that is to go undefeated," he says. "It's hard to go undefeated in any conference — and to go on and win a national championship, that's pretty special."

Glen Kozlowski is making his mark in the coaching profession and he draws upon the many lessons he learned at BYU, including going undefeated in 1984.

"I talk to my team about the fact that, in life, you're never going to be perfect because nobody is," he says. "But you have a chance to be perfect as a team. It's rare that you can do that."

Kozlowski spent seven seasons coaching Wauconda High, where he hired one of his teammates on that '84 team — tight end David Mills. When Kozlowski left Wauconda for North Chicago, Mills was promoted to head coach at Wauconda.

"We made a deal 27 years ago that if either one of us got a head coaching job, the other would come work with him," Kozlowski says. "I got the job out here and he came out. Then I left Wauconda and he got the job. We were best friends in college and roommates on the road that year we won the national championship. It was nice to do something that we talked about during the season. To actually get to do it was great."

Though Glen was rowdy when he was younger, Tyler says his dad has mellowed over the years.

"I'm telling you, he's a sensitive man now," he said. "Back in the day, there were stories about him fighting and all of this other stuff. Even growing up, we weren't allowed to cry. Nowadays, he might be the biggest crybaby of us all. He doesn't give me crap anymore."

More than anything, Tyler knows what BYU did for his dad.

"When my dad graduated from high school, they were so excited to get rid of him and have BYU take him over so he could be BYU's problem," Tyler says. "When he got here, he was a punk kid. Through LaVell, meeting my mom and being at BYU, he's changed his life. He served as first counselor in the bishopric. He's been on the high council and he's put four sons out on missions. This experience he had at BYU turned him from the little boy that he was into the man he is now.

"Growing up, we didn't really have the option to go anywhere else. It was just BYU from the time we were young."

While there was a time when football meant everything to Glen Kozlowski, his perspective has changed dramatically.

"I'm happy Tyler is getting the BYU experience. I'm happy he's at BYU. It's a great school," Glen said.

"As far as playing football, I didn't really care if my sons played football or not. I had two things I wanted them to do: go on a mission and get married in the temple. My sons have done a good job with that. Playing football is a bonus. It took Tyler two years to get a scholarship. He tried out on the second day of school with 200 kids and they kept three. He was one of the three. He did it the hard way, the old-fashioned way.

"I get a kick out of watching my son run out onto the field, the same field I played on," Glen said. "I enjoy those moments. I don't care if he's a star player or not. Just the fact that he's on the team and has worked himself to the point where he's gotten a scholarship. He he went on a mission and served an honorable mission. Those are things I'm proud of."

THURSDAY: Looking back at the game that clinched the national championship — the 1984 Holiday Bowl.

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com