If there’s a person that’s representative of BYU, it would be Bronson. It’s the type of person he is. He works so hard. There’s no coincidence why he’s playing the way he’s playing. – Senior linebacker Jherremya Leuta-Douyere
PROVO — As a kid, Bronson Kaufusi, the son of longtime BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi, would regularly ride his bike from his home to campus to be close to his dad, and to the Cougar football team.
“Any coach’s kids, if they’re into sports, they’re gym rats,” Steve said of Bronson and his other sons. “After school, they’re whining about doing their chores because they want to come down to visit. They always want to be around here.”
Bronson starred at Timpview High, signed with BYU in 2010, served a mission to New Zealand and since 2012 has been an immediate contributor to, and a fixture of, the Cougar defense.
Now as a 6-foot-8, 280-pound senior defensive end, Bronson Kaufusi will play his final game at LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday (1 p.m., MST, BYUtv) against Fresno State.
Kaufusi is coming off of a stellar individual performance in BYU’s 20-16 loss against Missouri last Saturday. In that game, he recorded 10 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
“That was one of the best games that I’ve seen a defensive player play,” said coach Bronco Mendenhall. “He was all over the place and played so hard. He tried with everything he had to win that game.”
Beyond what Kaufusi does on the field, Mendenhall offered high praise for his defensive lineman.
“In the meantime, he’s encouraging his teammates and is so optimistic. He’s everything that I would want in a BYU football player,” Mendenhall said. “I’ve had great players that struggled with the standards here and I’ve had guys that live the standards but struggle on the field. He’s great in all circumstances. He’s the perfect BYU player.”
When told what Mendenhall said about him, Kaufusi replied, “That’s a huge compliment for me. Growing up coming to the games, I idolized guys like Jan Jorgensen. To me, he’s the ideal BYU football player. Bryan Kehl, John Beck, Jonny Harline, all those guys. For me, I want to keep being that guy, keep working hard, being gritty, putting in extra time. All those things add up and help me to be a better BYU football player.”
Senior linebacker Jherremya Leuta-Douyere agreed that Kaufusi is the quintessential BYU football player.
“If there’s a person that’s representative of BYU, it would be Bronson,” he said. “It’s the type of person he is. He works so hard. There’s no coincidence why he’s playing the way he’s playing.”
It’s also no wonder that Kaufusi and quarterback Taysom Hill were chosen by their teammates as team captains prior to the season.
“We want all of our players to represent BYU on the field and off the field. It’s not so much the best player,” said Steve Kaufusi. “Who encompasses all that BYU stands for? As the players look to who to vote for as captains, those are the attributes and qualities that we hope the kids see. Bronson and Taysom are great examples of the kinds of leaders we’re looking for overall.”
Kaufusi has turned in a strong season on the field. He’s recorded a team-high 12 tackles-for-loss, seven sacks, an interception, five quarterback hurries, and three forced fumbles.
The way Kaufusi played against Missouri prompted broadcaster Brent Musburger to say, "He could start for Alabama."
Certainly, NFL scouts are watching him closely. Kaufusi is expected to be selected in next spring’s NFL draft.
BYU inside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga loved Kaufusi’s performance against Missouri, a Southeastern Conference opponent.
“I thought he played one of his best games as a Cougar. He was super-physical. At the point of contact there were a couple of times he got knocked back, but for the most part the amount of plays he made at the line of scrimmage I was really impressed with,” he said. “Some of Bronson’s game has been chasing down stuff and making plays that way. This was one of the first times that he was knocking back their tackles and tight ends and making a lot of plays at the line of scrimmage and behind the line of scrimmage. I thought he dominated that side of the game.”
The Missouri game also showed how much Kaufusi has improved his skills, Poppinga added.
“I’m really happy for him because he’s worked really hard. That’s something he’s been criticized about. We’ve tried to work with him on (playing against the run game). He’s just got to continue to progress. The pass rush stuff is easy for him. That’s what comes most natural. To be able to play the run defense like he did the other night, that was super impressive.”
Meanwhile, Steve Kaufusi is soaking in these final opportunities to coach his son, whom he remembers pedaling his bike to campus as a kid to be around him and the program. It’s a journey he’s relished.
Steve said, “I’m just enjoying the ride with him.”