LINCOLN, Neb. — Juxtaposed against the raucous celebration that erupted inside the BYU locker room at Memorial Stadium after the Cougars’ amazing 33-28 victory over Nebraska was the harsh reality, and devastating news, that their leader, team captain Taysom Hill, had been lost for the year — again.
For the third time in four years, Hill, the heart and soul of his team, had gone down with a season-ending injury. This time it was to his foot. It was just 11 months ago that he sustained a broken leg and torn ligaments in his ankle against Utah State. In those 11 months, he worked like crazy in order to return for the 2015 season.
“Really bittersweet,” said wide receiver Mitch Mathews, who caught the game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock from freshman Tanner Mangum. “(Hill is) one of my best friends. You see him with that severe of an injury and come back in and play, you almost want to cry during the game for how tough he is and how great of a leader he is and how we’re going to play for him even more. The catch comes secondary to my love for my best friend. He’ll be missed.”
Hill actually suffered the Lisfranc injury in the second quarter on a 21-yard touchdown run as he planted his foot. Nobody touched him.
Hill limped into the locker room and was checked by medical personnel.
“They took him in, knew what the injury was, taped him up and he wanted to go in again, which our trainers said they have never seen (with that type of injury),” Mendenhall said. “He went on grit and determination and tried to help our football team win. He’s an amazing person.”
After Mangum came in for a few plays in the second quarter, Hill returned and went on to throw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mathews late in that period.
“He allowed us to stay within striking distance,” Mendenhall said. “There’s no player or person that I’ve coached that I care more about than Taysom. So it’s bittersweet.”
In the fourth quarter, Hill left the game again and Mangum took over the rest of the way.
“I love Taysom so much. He’s our leader, he’s our captain,” Mangum said. “Even though he wasn’t on the field, his presence was felt. All of us wanted to fight hard for him, just like he was fighting hard for the team … Taysom … has helped me so much in preparing to come in if needed.”
Hill’s status moving forward is uncertain. Would he try to return for his senior year again next season?
“It’s a little too fast and too early right now to even think about, so I don’t know,” Mendenhall said. “Taysom has a bright future and in the world of business, finance and family. We’ll let all of this kind of calm down for a little bit and maybe have a clearer head with a different perspective. I’ll let him speak for himself on that one.”
Hill completed 21 of 34 passes for 268 yards, one touchdown and one interception and rushed nine times for 72 yards and two touchdowns against Nebraska.
“We heard he had tore it, that second quarter he comes out and he’s playing and so we think maybe it’s not that bad,” Mathews said. “I’m sitting on the sideline talking to him and he acts like nothing is happening. That’s just the type of guy he is. He is really tough. I found out earlier, and the second time he went in you knew deep down it was the worst. You come into the locker room and you want to celebrate, but you want to console a guy like that. Like I said, he is one of the best players in the country and he deserves that.”
Defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi didn’t know the severity of Hill’s injury until after the game.
“For me, I had no idea. Someone said he did something to his foot. After the game, I knew something was up because he wasn’t in,” he said. “I walked in — of course we were celebrating — I saw him standing there and I went straight over there and talked to him. He told me what happened. My heart goes out to him. Man, I love that guy. He’s done so much and will continue to do a lot for our team. Guys look to him for leadership. I told him I was sorry, because it’s hard. That’s one of the hardest things. We all have his back. We’ll all be there for him.”