<strong>BYU called me. Tom Holmoe (BYU athletic director) called to see what I was thinking. When it got closer and it looked like Kalani might be the guy, he called and we talked. I felt like I was going to be able to run the system I want to run. And then I like Kalani’s vision of getting it back to that home feel it had for us when we were here.</strong> – Ty Detmer

PROVO — It’s been 25 years, if you can believe it, since Ty Detmer spent his days hanging around the football office at BYU. He was a regular fixture from 1987-91, almost as omnipresent as Shirley Johnson, the office secretary, LaVell Edwards’ gatekeeper and surrogate mom to anyone and everyone playing on the football team.

Shirley’s retired now, as is LaVell, and who knows what happened to the couches the players sat on, napped on, spilled food on and pretended to study on whenever they weren’t in class or on the field.

Everything’s changed now, of course. LaVell’s old office in the Smith Fieldhouse is occupied by women’s basketball. Football’s headquarters are across the parking lot in a structure that didn’t exist in Ty’s time, the Student Athlete Building, where it commands the entire second floor, above Legends Grille and Legacy Hall.

Detmer’s as responsible as anyone for the gigantic sports makeover at BYU. That’s his jersey hanging in his very own Legacy Hall trophy case, alongside those belonging to McMahon, Young, Bosco, Sheide, Nielsen, Wilson and all the rest. His Heisman Trophy is the first thing you see when you walk in the door.

The building will topple over before they stop talking about the 1990 season when he won the Heisman, a year that began with BYU’s greatest home win in history — 28-21 over top-ranked and defending national champion Miami with Detmer passing for 406 yards and three touchdowns.

By the time the season ended Detmer had thrown 41 touchdowns and for 5,188 yards — the highest total to that point in major college history. He set 42 NCAA records in 1990. Before his career was finished he’d set 59.

To this day, a quarter-century later, after the proliferation of spread offenses and no-huddle, hurry-up game plans, he still ranks No. 7 all-time in touchdown passes for a career (121) and No. 5 in passing yards (15,031). At BYU, his name is in the record book 17 times, more than any other player.

Supposedly too short at 6 feet to see over NFL defenses, he turned a ninth-round draft selection into a 14-year, six-team pro career, during which he played in 54 games and started 25, usually because the guy in front of him either wasn’t producing or got hurt. Online blogs that keep track of such things rank him among the 10 best NFL backups in history.

Ty retired from football in 2005 to his home state of Texas, with his wife Kim — they met at BYU — and their daughters Kaili, Aubri, Mayci and Rylli. They bought a home in Austin, Texas, and a 1,300-acre hunting ranch called the T-14 (Ty’s playing number) three-and-a-half hours away in Freer, home to an abundance of white-tailed deer, boars, rams and antelopes.

In 2010, Ty got back into coaching, partly because he missed the game and partly because he needed a paycheck (the hunting ranch, besides giving Ty and his family a cool sanctuary, basically breaks even). In a well-publicized trial in Austin, Kurt Barton, a friend Detmer met at church, was convicted of running a Ponzi scheme that cost investors $75 million, $2 million of which was Detmer’s life savings.

He was hired as head coach of the football team at St. Andrew’s, a small private high school in Austin that emphasizes algebra over athletics. The team had gone 0-10 the year before. With Detmer at the helm in 2010, it went 0-10 again.

But every year got better for the St. Andrew’s Crusaders: 3-7 in 2011, then 3-6, 4-5, 5-3 and 8-1 in 2015.

It would be a stretch to say that his high school coaching success is what brought Detmer back to Provo as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Kalani Sitake’s new staff. His legend and body of work made him a coveted target of BYU head coaches long before that.

But it sure didn’t hurt, and at 48, Detmer finally said yes to coaching at the place he once called home sweet home. In a free-flowing conversation with the Deseret News, he talked about the past, the present and what he hopes for in the future.

DN: Welcome back to Utah. You’ve had previous offers to coach, here and other places as well. What made you say yes this time to BYU?

TD: For me, it’s kinda that point in your life where either you’re going to go (into college coaching) or you’re not, ever. I’ve said no before but this time I just felt like this is the right time to make the move with the right person to be with. And I love BYU. I enjoy it here; I have great memories here. There is a lot of uncertainty about what’s going to happen, but you can sit there and play it safe and stay at St. Andrew’s or you can put yourself out there and see what happens. So right people, right time, right place. Hopefully it stays that way.

DN: Any pushback from the family?

TD: (Laughs) No. I was kinda looking for excuses not to go, but my wife was all for it. She said, 'you need to challenge yourself.' She had total confidence in me, probably more than I have in myself. My girls were all for it too. One is going to be a senior, I thought maybe she would push back and want to finish school down there. But she was like, 'I know kids from EFY, I have friends in Utah, I already have a date if we move up there.' I was like, OK, slow down with the date stuff. Let’s get moved first.

DN: When Bronco Mendenhall announced he was leaving last fall, who called who first, you or BYU?

TD: BYU called me. Tom Holmoe (BYU athletic director) called to see what I was thinking. When it got closer and it looked like Kalani might be the guy, he called and we talked. I felt like I was going to be able to run the system I want to run. And then I like Kalani’s vision of getting it back to that home feel it had for us when we were here.

DN: Describe “home feel.”

TD: Bronco did some really good things, but his approach was a little more corporate level. It was successful, so it works for some guys. Tom Coughlin was one of those coaches that the players don’t seem to be very close to and that worked for him. You’ve got other coaches who are a little more player coaches and that works for them. So everybody’s got their own model. I think with Kalani, he wants the guys hanging around in the coaches' office, he wants them around the football facility, he wants former players coming by. We’ve still got to get our work done, but he wants people around, he wants that brotherhood with the former players and the people in the community. That’s the way it used to be with LaVell. All the players, we sat in there in Shirley’s office on the couches and that’s where we hung out between classes. LaVell, I think, enjoyed that, he knew where we were, knew what we were doing. Shirley would get on a guy for not shaving that day or needing a haircut. That’s what we’d like to see, the players being around and enjoy being around. I think you can have that respect level from the players and still be a good guy and be that father figure to them.

DN: Have you talked to LaVell? What’s his reaction to your return?

TD: He’s wanted to see me here for a while, so he’s encouraged me all along and he’s all for it. When I took the job at St. Andrew’s I picked his brain on things. How’d you build BYU and change the culture there? He said, 'We quit worrying about what we didn’t have and started focusing on what we did have.' That’s the mentality I took at St Andrew’s. We were 0-10, but let’s not worry about the things we don’t have or the players we don’t have, let’s focus on what we do have and how we can get better with that. I feel like we kinda changed the culture there.

DN: Conventional thinking is that a quarterback controversy isn’t a good thing, but you’ve said you welcome having both Taysom Hill and Tanner Mangum returning at QB?

TD: Yep, I’m glad we have two good quarterbacks. There’s a lot of college programs in the country that would kill to have just one of them. Two is better than one. I’ve always said that. If you’re a good program and the right players want to be there, at every position you’re going to have controversy. It just happens that we’ve got a fifth-year senior coming back and last year’s freshman of the year at the same position.

DN: Please describe your offensive philosophy?

TD: One thing you learn real quick coaching at a small high school is that here’s the system I’d like to run, but here’s what we can run, and you morph into that. My philosophy is let’s try to do what works and not try to fit a square peg into a round hole. We’ll want to slow the game down a little bit more, give our defense time to rest, let the offense huddle up. We’ll be pro style in that sense, but pro style to me is being multiple, being able to do a lot of things with different personnel groups.

DN: You played in high school for your father, Sonny, a Texas high school coaching legend who’s still going strong at 72. What do you hope rubs off on you?

TD: I really appreciated the way he carried himself and treated the players. He wasn’t a drill sergeant. We didn’t do a lot of conditioning drills to get in condition, we worked on plays to incorporate things that helped us become better players. He allowed guys to play the game and learn the game, not just do it because I said so. I think that’s real important. I’d like to be like that.

DN: Should BYU’s brand remain the forward pass?

TD: If that’s what we have to do to win the game, yeah. You look back at some of my stats, in certain games we didn’t throw it 30 times, we threw it 20. There were games where we ran the ball a bunch. There were games where we played a team that shut down the run and we threw it 50 times. If everybody’s going to emphasize more pass defense maybe we should run the ball more — line up with our big linemen that we’re able to get and big fullbacks and tight ends and let’s go. It would be like BYU was initially when they were throwing the ball when no one else was. It wouldn’t be the worst thing, but it wouldn’t be BYU, either. Man, if we run the ball twice in a row, I’m probably going to hear about it.

DN: How much did your time as a backup quarterback in the NFL help shape you as a coach?

TD: When you’re a backup you’re almost another coach on the staff, especially when you get older in your career. You’re not game-planning, but you’re mentoring young guys and seeing things from a different perspective than the other coaches or the quarterback who’s playing. It gives you a different feel for the game.

DN: How do you feel about BYU’s independent status in football?

TD: As a coach, you look at the schedule and think what’s the big deal? We’re playing a Power 5 schedule and that’s what you want — to play tough teams. As a staff, there hasn’t been that much talk about it, and as far as that goes, I don’t think the players care that much either. None of the recruits that we did home visits with asked about being in a conference or not. If you’re able to have a Power 5 type of schedule it’s not a big deal for players and coaches. Fans maybe more so.

DN: You’re from Texas. Any pull helping BYU get into the Big 12 Conference?

TD: (Laughs) I wear my boots every day in hopes someone from the Big 12 will drop by; hasn’t happened yet.