PROVO — Sporting a suit coat bedecked with bright flowers, an earring and his trademark sunglasses, former BYU quarterback Jim McMahon was inducted into the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame Thursday night at the Marriott Center.
“I better not screw this up,” McMahon joked when he stood to deliver his acceptance speech, “I just passed public speaking.”
During his BYU career, McMahon broke 70 NCAA records and guided the Cougars to their first two bowl victories. But it wasn’t until he recently completed his last four classes to graduate — including a public speaking course — that he was eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame.
“I studied more the last eight months than I did in five years of college when I was here,” McMahon said. “I never would have guessed 32 years ago when I left here that I would be standing here today.”
McMahon was one of five former All-Americans who were enshrined into the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame Thursday, along with Kelly Parkinson Evanson (gymnastics), Dmitri Malinovski (swimming), Tara Rohatinsky Northcutt (cross-country/track) and Aleisha Cramer Rose (soccer) in a ceremony hosted by the Cougar Club.
Legendary coach LaVell Edwards, who presented McMahon for the Hall of Fame via a video tribute, said that McMahon nearly left BYU after his sophomore season.
“I wasn’t really happy,” McMahon explained. “There were two people that I owe the rest of my BYU career to — one is Dr. Brent Pratley, who was our orthopedic surgeon at the time, and the other is my ex-wife, Nancy.”
McMahon said that without their friendship and support, he would have gone elsewhere.
Fortunately for BYU, McMahon stayed in Provo. In his final two seasons, McMahon threw for 8,126 yards and 77 touchdowns, was a first-team All-American as a junior in 1980, and a consensus All-America selection in 1981.
McMahon expressed appreciation for his teammates, saying, “I couldn’t do everything myself … I had a great group of guys around me.” Clay Brown, who caught the game-winning Hail Mary pass from McMahon to win the 1980 Holiday Bowl, attended the ceremony.
McMahon also thanked his former BYU coaches, including Doug Scovil and Ted Tollner, as well as Tom Holmoe, who now serves as BYU’s athletic director.
He was also grateful for his teachers at BYU who helped him finish his last four classes to graduate, and his girlfriend, Laurie Navon, who helped push McMahon to finish his academic work. He also mentioned his two daughters and two sons, who accompanied him on his return to Provo this week.
“I think they understand now, after seeing stuff on the walls around here, that I was actually pretty good,” McMahon said of his children. “I could actually play.”
Finally, he paid homage to his parents. “Mom and Dad,” McMahon said, “I did this for you.”
McMahon added he looked forward to returning to BYU again in the future.
At halftime during Friday’s BYU-Utah State game, McMahon’s No. 9 jersey will be retired. A banner with McMahon’s name and number will be unveiled and permanently displayed on the press box at LaVell Edwards Stadium.