BYU linebacker Ben Bywater, the Cougars’ leading tackler in the 2021 and 2022 seasons, announced Monday that he will not play again in 2023 due to a planned season-ending shoulder surgery.

“I will be playing football next year, whether it is here or (trying for) the NFL, I don’t know. A lot of conversations (need) to be had.” — BYU junior linebacker Ben Bywater

Bywater sustained the injury in BYU’s 38-27 loss to Kansas on Sept. 23 and was holding out hope that he could return before October ended, but those hopes have been dashed.

Bywater, an Olympus High product, told the KSL Sports Zone Monday morning that the injury is worse than originally believed and that he will have season-ending surgery “here in the next week-and-a-half on it.”

Bywater was again leading the team in tackles, with 32, when he sustained the injury in the Cougars’ fourth game. He played with a torn labrum last year, then had surgery when the season ended.

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“I knew it was torn the second it happened,” he told the “DJ & PK Show,” describing an “out-of-body experience” in the medical tent at Booth Stadium in Lawrence and worrying then that his season might be over. “The truth is I damaged a nerve in my arm. It would be five, six weeks from the time it happened (to recover). … Unfortunate, but it is one of those things where I was really trying to push it. But at the end of the day I still can’t move it. It has been three weeks. I still got nerve damage in my arm,” he said.

Bywater said he hasn’t “made a complete decision yet” regarding whether he will return to BYU next year for his final season of eligibility, or give the NFL a shot.

Having served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bywater is older than the typical junior. He graduated from Olympus High in 2017.

“I will be playing football next year, whether it is here or (trying for) the NFL, I don’t know,” he said. “A lot of conversations (need) to be had.”

Cougars on the air


Texas Tech (2-2, 3-4)
at BYU (1-2, 4-2)
Saturday, 5 p.m. MDT
LaVell Edwards Stadium
TV: FS1
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM


One of the highlights of Bywater’s career was a pick-six last December against SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai that helped BYU win the New Mexico Bowl.

He currently has 247 career tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks.

“So, tough little gig for me,” he said of the injury. “Not exactly what I wanted. … It came down to it just wasn’t smart (to try to play). I wasn’t going to be an asset against TCU.”

The Cougars lost 44-11 to the Horned Frogs and will face Texas Tech on Saturday at 5 p.m. at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

BYU linebacker Ben Bywater steps over Wyoming running back Dawaiian McNeely after a play at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
BYU linebacker Ben Bywater (2) steps over Wyoming Cowboys running back Dawaiian McNeely after a play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News