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BYU football: Jorgensen’s final ride as a Cougar

Senior defensive leader lets play speak for him

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BYU coaches are counting on senior defensive end Jan Jorgensen to lead by example this season, as has done throughout his career.

BYU coaches are counting on senior defensive end Jan Jorgensen to lead by example this season, as has done throughout his career.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

Jan Jorgensen is saddling up for his final ride as a Cougar.

But the senior hasn't changed his shtick — he's still showing the same game face he brought as a starting freshman. He's passionate, motivated, dialed into every play in practice. From DNA he gets from his father and brother who played the game, he knows football isn't for pansies, the faint of heart or those who love lettermen jackets but don't like bending bones.

Standing for an interview after practice, while others sought shade and Powerade cups, Jorgensen stood in the sun, sweat running down his head and face, stinging his eyes and upper lip, his jersey soaked. He didn't flinch and refused to move into the cool shadows nearby. If practice had gone another hour on this day, the first with pads, he'd have welcomed the punishment like a Gandhi fast.

Jorgensen has dropped some weight and is stronger than he's ever been. If he doesn't have a good practice, it shows. He's a perfectionist; if he fails, he shows the disappointment on his face. This just happened to be a good day.

So, what's Jorgensen's take? "I'm thinking how our team is coming together," he said.

Tuesday the defense took a step forward. Wednesday, despite fatigue, players kept hustling and making plays. To Jorgensen, those are bankable dividends. His mission is to lead any way he can, push the agenda. He's not a screamer, a guy who yells at teammates.

"I let my actions speak for me. If you're not making plays, you don't have much credibility in my book, that's how I see it."

Guys have to keep their energy up, work hard and give effort, says Jorgensen. So far, he's seen exactly that out of the Cougar defenders after the first week of practice.

The cover guys on the backend are making plays, getting hands on passes.

"The secondary is already better than it was last year," Jorgensen said. In the offseason, for the first time in his BYU career, a big contingent of the squad voluntarily met and had player-directed practices. More players took their own time to break down film. While players worked on speed this summer, the biggest step, said the senior, was a growth in the mental part of the game.

"I think it's working," he said. "All over the place, it's working."

Jorgensen's coach, Steve Kaufusi, says Jorgensen has earned the respect of the team and expectations for him and the other senior, Brett Denney, are huge.

Two years ago, Jorgensen led the MWC in sacks. It wasn't by design, they came because of his effort, said Kaufusi.

"Jan is a student of the game," Kaufusi said. "He's a competitor. He's a guy you want to be your teammate, your leader. He'll do everything he can to win. He's very passionate about the game. He looks in the mirror and he's a hard critic."

It's something you like all players to do to improve themselves.

"I always tell the guys to make me look good, and he's made me look good the past few years," Kaufusi said.

Jorgensen is a popular quote with the media. He doesn't sugarcoat, he speaks his mind. He's candid and honest, without puffery or pretension or feigned humility.

This season could materialize as a big one for the Cougars, especially with the opener against Oklahoma at Jerry's big house in Arlington. Any senior worth his salt senses the finality of such a start to the final run, the goodbye lap.

Jorgensen's no different. He can't wait for the kickoff against the Sooners, a time to put it on the line with high stakes and big-time lights.

It's what a football player lives for. Nobody knows how good or bad BYU will be in 2009. Predictions in August are cheap.

But a good bet, a money move, is counting on Jorgensen. The Cougars will miss him when he's gone.

Jorgensen's inspiration to the Cougars has been as tangible as that white wrapping tape trainers carry. So is his refreshing humility.

"I try," he says, stifling a laugh. "I try."

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com